Police Chief Killed; Drunk Driver Charged

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WHARTON, Texas -- A Wharton construction worker with four previous drunken driving convictions has been charged with felony murder.

Guillarmo Paniagua, 29, is accused of being drunk and then fleeing the scene of a crash in which the police chief of the Needville Independent School District died.

Authorities say he was driving east on Farm-to-Market Road 1301 Friday night when he veered into the westbound lane and collided with a police cruiser driven by Ernie Mendoza -- the police chief of the Needville ISD.

Mendoza, 54, died at the scene. Paniagua fled the crash on foot but was soon apprehended. He remains at the Wharton County Detention Center after being treated for cuts and bruises. He has been charged with felony murder due to intoxication and failure to stop and render aid.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety didn't know if Paniagua had an attorney yet. A blood test to determine Paniagua blood-alcohol level is pending as well.

Mendoza was wearing a seat belt but Paniagua wasn't.