03/25/2004

Suspected Drunk Driver Charged in Texas Officer's Death

Officer Down: Frank Cantu - [Houston, Texas]

The Associated Press

Houston (AP) -- Prosecutors charged a motorist with drunken driving Thursday morning after a Houston police officer was killed in a high-speed collision.

Frank Cantu, a 19-year veteran of the force, was driving in the River Oaks area of Houston about 2:20 a.m. when his patrol car was struck by a car speeding through a nearby intersection.

Cantu's patrol car was spun into a tree in a nearby flower bed. The other car was traveling so fast it didn't come to rest for half a block, police spokesman Alvin Wright said.

Rescuers extracted Cantu from his wrecked cruiser and rushed him to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he was pronounced dead with head trauma. He was 43.

Police said the driver of the other car, Johnston Beacom, 29, refused a breath test and was charged with drunken driving, with intoxication manslaughter charges pending. He remained in custody Thursday morning after getting treated for minor injuries and having blood drawn.

A passenger in Beacom's sport coupe, who was not injured, was questioned after the wreck.

Officers closed off the intersection until about 9 a.m. Thursday morning to reconstruct the collision scene. The traffic signals appeared to be working properly, authorities said.

The flags at the Houston Police Officer Memorial were lowered to half staff shortly after dawn.

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