12/27/2003

Texas Deputy Killed in One-Car Wreck

Officer Down: Deputy Jesus Garza - [Bexar County, Texas]

By Mary Moreno, The San Antonio Express-News

A Bexar County, Texas sheriff's deputy heading to a crash Friday was killed when he lost control of his patrol car at a sharp curve and hit a stand of trees near Calaveras Lake in Southeastern Bexar County.

Deputy Jesus Garza, 33, died at Brooke Army Medical Center of internal and head injuries, said Sheriff's Capt. Rey Lujan.

Investigators didn't immediately know what caused Garza to lose control of the vehicle.

The deputy was alone in his patrol car at about 6 p.m., responding to a call about a rollover with people trapped inside a vehicle near U.S. 181 and Kilowatt Road when he crashed.

Sheriff's Lt. Kyle Coleman said later the rollover turned out to be minor, with no serious injuries.

Garza was in the 9500 block of Stuart Road when his vehicle left the pavement, officials said.

Lujan said late Friday that investigators didn't know yet how fast Garza was traveling.

A preliminary investigation showed Garza was headed west on Stuart when his patrol car left the narrow two-lane road and traveled on the grassy shoulder for several yards before spinning around, skidding across the road and crashing against several trees off the eastbound lane.

Officials said an anonymous passer-by spotted the deputy's wrecked car and called for help.

Garza was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash, Lujan said.

An 11-year veteran of the department, Garza started at the Bexar County Jail in 1992. He worked there for six years, then became a warrants officer.

He went on to work in the department's gang unit before transferring to patrol about a year ago, officials said.

Lujan said Garza leaves behind a wife and three children, all younger than 14.

Garza was a quiet, shy man, Lujan said. He called Garza "a good officer."

Fellow officers were devastated by the news.

"It's been a few years since we lost an officer," Lujan said, his voice straining with emotion. "Everyone is having a hard time right now."

The last deputy killed in the line of duty was David Castillo, 31, who died in April 1991 while answering a call to back up a fellow deputy serving a warrant.

Castillo's patrol car also veered off the road and crashed against a tree.

Garza is the 15th Bexar County Sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty since 1840, according to the sheriff's department web site.

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