Details on UTEP tailgate DWI suspect who hit family on ghost tour in Downtown El Paso

A 20-year-old driver allegedly got drunk at a UTEP football tailgate party before a collision that injured a group of pedestrians on a Downtown El Paso ghost walking tour last month, court documents revealed.

El Paso police arrested Hector Eduardo Gonzalez on two counts of intoxication assault in connection with a crash that struck pedestrians — including a pregnant woman — on Sept. 23 at East Franklin Avenue and Oregon Street, officials said.

The Saturday night crash occurred at 8:16 p.m. while UTEP football played against UNLV at the Sun Bowl. In a jail booking photo, Gonzalez is wearing a blue polo-style shirt with the "UTEP" logo.

The football game was promoted as "915 Heroes Night," honoring the U.S. military, law enforcement, medical personnel and teachers.

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According to a complaint affidavit obtained by the El Paso Times, Gonzalez told police he had been "volunteering" at the UTEP football game before joining a tailgate party. Police noted that at 20 years old, Gonzalez was a minor who should not have been drinking.

The complaint document does not explain further what "volunteering" Gonzalez may have been involved in and whether it was related to the game. It doesn't say what tailgate party he attended.

Family on ghost tour struck in Downtown El Paso

Gonzalez was driving a red 2016 Toyota Tacoma going east on Franklin Avenue while a southbound silver 2017 Toyota 4Runner was stopped at a red light on Oregon Street next to the El Paso Main Library, according to the affidavit and police officials.

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When the light turned green for the 4Runner to go south on Oregon, Gonzalez allegedly "disregarded the red light" and went straight, "swiped the front" of the vehicle on Oregon, which then struck pedestrians on the south side of Franklin before crashing into parked cars and stopping, the affidavit stated.

There were several pedestrians struck, but only two had serious injuries. The injured were mostly part of a family taking part in a ghost walking tour of Downtown, police reported in the affidavit.

Hector Eduardo Gonzalez is accused of intoxication assault in a suspected DWI collision that injured a group of pedestrians in Downtown El Paso on Sept. 23, 2023.
Hector Eduardo Gonzalez is accused of intoxication assault in a suspected DWI collision that injured a group of pedestrians in Downtown El Paso on Sept. 23, 2023.

The pedestrians struck were identified by police as Yesenia Alejandra Loya, 25, Felix Loya, 61, and Sophia Crystal Loya, 35. Yesenia Loya was five-months pregnant and suffered a broken right leg, a broken right ankle and had severe cuts to her right forearm, the complaint stated.

The Toyota 4Runner was driven by Erik Checo, 42, who had one passenger, Odile Karina Checo, age unavailable. The extent of their injuries, if any, was not disclosed.

Hector Eduardo Gonzalez allegedly admits running stop light

A police sergeant was at the scene at 8:18 p.m., two minutes after the crash occurred on a busy Saturday night with an El Paso Locomotive FC soccer game two blocks away at Southwest University Park.

After the sergeant helped him out of the driver's seat, Gonzalez sat down next to his truck and removed his boots, the affidavit stated. Officers noted that Gonzalez had trouble keeping his balance while walking, had glossy eyes, appeared dazed and had a strong odor of alcohol. Gonzalez told police he wasn't hurt.

While speaking with officers, Gonzalez made several confusing or untrue statements, according to the affidavit. Among the statements were:

  • Gonzalez falsely claimed a police car hit him while going east on Franklin trying to get to Interstate 10. He later claimed it was an ambulance. There had been no such collision, police said.

  • When police asked him what time it was, Gonzalez responded he thought it was about 1 a.m., but it was actually about 8:30 p.m. when the officer was talking to him.

  • Gonzalez told police that he was going to take the border highway home and also said that he was going to take I-10 home. An El Paso County Jail log lists him residing in the Lower Valley.

When questioned if he had the green light, Gonzalez replied that his light had just turned yellow but later allegedly said that he ran the red light, the affidavit stated. Several other people told police that he ran the red light.

Suspected DWI driver was coming from UTEP football tailgate party

Gonzalez claimed that he had been volunteering at the UTEP game and then went to a tailgate party and was on his way home when the collision occurred, the affidavit stated.

When questioned by police, Gonzalez allegedly said he had been at the tailgate party since 4:30 p.m. and had his last drinks around 10 p.m., though it wasn't 10 yet, according to the complaint.

Gonzalez allegedly told police that he had four beers. He refused to do a field sobriety test nor take a breath-alcohol test and said he would rather give a blood specimen, the complaint stated.

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A search warrant for a blood sample was obtained and blood was taken at 10:32 p.m. at Las Palmas Medical Center. The result of the blood test was not included in the criminal complaint. The affidavit mentions that police officers' body-camera footage was requested as part of the investigation by the Special Traffic Investigations Unit.

Gonzalez was booked into the El Paso County Jail on Sept. 24 and released later that same day on a $70,000 bond on each charge, according to jail records. Records do not list a lawyer for him.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: UTEP football tailgate DWI suspect hit family on Downtown ghost tour