The McAllen Police Department is facing a big lawsuit, after a sergeant allegedly failed to prevent a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel.
Bars and clubs are sometimes sued after serving drinks to a customer involved in drunk driving accidents, but a case filed in March points to a McAllen police sergeant for failing to prevent a drunk driver from taking the life of an Edinburg man.
Two years ago, Jose Mata was taken from his wife and son, when police say Zulai Zamora rammed the back of his motorcycle at the intersection of Jackson Road and University Drive in Edinburg.
Court documents reveal Zamora left the Yacht Club in McAllen about one hour before the crash and had drank three drinks with whiskey and a Jell-O shot.
Zamora was reportedly pulled over shortly after leaving the Yacht Club by McAllen Police Sgt. Javier Coronado, but after a few minutes he sent on her back on her way home.
"He wasn't issued anything, wasn't taken in, Sgt. Coronado told her to continue," said Lino Ochoa who is representing Mata TMs family.
Zamora testifies she then pulled into the Stripes on Nolana and McColl to get something to eat and that Coronado followed her and directed her to go across the street.
"She went because she was in fear of being arrested because she had just been drinking at the bar," Ochoa said.
According to the petition, after Zamora left Stripes, the video surveillance on a bank ATM captured Zamora and Coronado parked in a church parking lot for about 15 minutes only four to five feet away from each other.
The petition states, he asked for her number while she asked for a ride home.
"She basically asked for help, Ochoa said. Instead he asked her questions, we were hitting on her. And then he directed her to leave and she leaves and that's when this unfortunate incident happened."
Mata's family is holding the police department responsible for letting Zamora get behind the wheel again after she showed visible signs that she was drunk.
"McAllen PD had three times they could have put a stop to this and they didn't do it," Ochoa said. "If Edinburg PD was able to point it out so clearly after running the test, then why wasn't McAllen PD able to do the same thing."
The family now holds the Yacht Club in McAllen responsible for continuing to serve Zamora drinks after she was intoxicated.
Lt. Mario Villarreal of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says any establishment that sells alcohol must follow state dram shop laws.
"When they [servers] see any signs that they have had a bit too much, they need to regulate or stop the service of alcoholic beverages, Villarreal said. They may consider giving them a ride or give them another drink other than alcohol. Or keep them around the business for a little bit until they sober up."
"Mr. Mata would still be here with his wife and son if it weren't for the actions of the McAllen Police Department and Yacht Club, Ochoa said.
With a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit, Zamora pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter charges.
She expected to be sentenced on April 17th.
Ochoa says he hopes to take the civil case before a jury by the end of the year.
Action 4 News did reach out to the McAllen city attorney TMs office for comment on the case. They released the following statement:
The city of McAllen was recently served with the lawsuit suit you reference. The city takes all claims made against it seriously. Accordingly, we are currently reviewing information related to this matter. The city will respond to the claims made in the lawsuit and proceed accordingly, via this office or, if appropriate, outside attorneys. Given that the matter is pending litigation in the early stages of the judicial process, it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further at this time," Kevin D. Pagan the McAllen City Attorney said.