A 12-year-old girl behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer SUV struck and killed a man and his dog, and the father who put her in the driver’s seat has been charged in connection with the man’s death, PEOPLE confirms.
Neighbors identified the victim as 47-year-old Enrique Vazquez, and said he often walked his dogs in the Houston, Texas, apartment complex where the incident occurred about 4:25 p.m. Thursday, reports Houston TV station KTRK.
According to a news release from Houston police, 42-year-old Tomas Mejia Tol allowed his 12-year-old daughter to drive the black Ford Explorer.
The child “began to pull forward from a parking space as a man was walking with his dogs through the parking lot,” police said.
“When the child pressed the accelerator pedal, the Ford moved forward at a high rate of speed, struck the man, one of his dogs and then a tree,” according to the police statement.
Paramedics who arrived pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
“The dog was also pronounced deceased,” police said.
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Authorities learned an infant also was in the SUV at the time it crashed, said Sean Teare, who leads the vehicular crimes division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, reports Houston TV station KHOU.
“You can’t allow a young child to drive in a populated place,” Teare told the outlet. “If you’re going to teach a young person how to drive, go to an empty parking lot. Go somewhere where you’re not going to have the potential for taking someone’s life.”
He added: “Every time you turn the wheel, or you turn the key on a car, you are strapping on a deadly weapon.”
The father was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide and endangering a child, according to police. It could not be immediately determined if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.