Madam Speaker, peace officers are a noble breed, daily risking their lives to protect and serve the rest of us. They are what separate the evil of the lawless from us.
Two weeks ago on a dark, cool, misty Texas night, Needville, Texas, Independent School District Chief of Police Ernie Mendoza, was coming home from his job. He had been supervising a basketball game at one of the local schools. As chief of police of Needville Independent School District, it was his job to protect students during school and during events.
However, on the same road was 29-year-old construction worker Guillermo Paniagua. Guillermo was drunk and driving his pickup truck. He was headed toward the chief's car. And within moments, Gulliermo's truck crossed the center stripe of the road, slammed head first into the chief of police's vehicle. The crash instantly killed this dedicated police chief.
The chief had devoted 25 years of his life as one of Texas's lawmen. It was something that meant a lot to him. He was proud to serve his country as a peace officer. He was a 1983 graduate of the Waco Police Department where he worked in this small central Texas town.
Then he moved on to the big city of Houston, Texas, where he worked with the Houston Independent School District Police Department - one of the Nation's largest school districts. And then in 1996 he accepted the position with the Needville ISD Police Department where he became chief of police.
ISD police officers have the responsibility to protect children and teachers while they are in school. They maintain law and order and discipline. They keep the kids safe from day to day. And Chief Mendoza was one of the best. He strived to be a positive role model for the kids he protected, and he made peace officers look good.
He took the time to talk to kids and was well liked throughout the school. But it all ended a mile from his own home and the indifference of a drunk driver.
Like most drunk drivers, Guillermo had only minor cuts and bruises. He was not injured. But those bruises did not keep him, the coward, the killer, from running from the scene in the darkness of the night.
He was quickly captured by the Wharton County, Texas Sheriff's Department, and now he faces first-degree felony murder charges, and failure to stop and render aid.
You see, when you drink and drive and kill somebody, that is a felony. As it ought to be.
Chief Mendoza's wife and four children are now deprived of their husband, and father for the rest of their lives. The kids of the Needville school system have lost a good protector.
But, Madam Speaker, this was not Guillermo's first rodeo. You see, he has a total of four intoxication convictions in the United States, two in Texas and two in Georgia. In Texas he was given probation for a DWI, but that was revoked when he was rearrested. And then when he got that second DWI, he only spent 3 days in jail and got 18 months probation and his license was suspended.
This drunk should never have been given his driver's license back at all. His four DWI convictions proved that the system is not holding him accountable for being a drunk driver.
But the most disturbing thing about Guillermo Paniagua is he is illegally in this country. So why is he still here? How did he get a driver's license in the first place? Why was his immigration status not checked by the police officers each and every time he was picked up for drunk driving? He should have been deported the first time he was arrested.
Police Chief Ernie Mendoza was killed at the hands of an illegal, a drunk driver. And this could have all been prevented. He and his family ha