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A Texas Highway Patrol trooper based in La Salle County required airlifting to a San Antonio hospital Friday afternoon, May 7, after an incident in which his vehicle was struck by a stolen ambulance at the conclusion of a two-county high-speed chase.
Emergency responders and law enforcement officers including the Highway Patrol, the La Salle and Webb County sheriffs’ offices, the US Border Patrol, Texas Rangers, the Encinal and Laredo police departments and local constables were involved in the pursuit and capture of a man who is believed to have made off with an ambulance after an altercation with medics, according to investigators.
A report on Friday’s incident is supported by witness video footage that shows the stolen ambulance traveling at high speed over the IH-35 intersection with FM 133 at Artesia Wells and becoming airborne. The vehicle narrowly missed an officer who was on foot beside the road and collided with the trooper’s marked patrol unit before coming to rest along a treeline beside the interstate access road.
Trooper Steven Olivares sustained injuries in the collision and was airlifted from the scene. He was treated and released the same day.
The suspect in the case has been identified as Alberto Medina, 30, of Laredo. He was extracted from the damaged cab of the ambulance and taken into custody on a rake of first-degree felony charges that include two counts of aggravated assault against a public servant and two counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer. He has also been charged with third-degree felony evading arrest or detention, state jail felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and Class B misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.
Medina was hospitalized for treatment of injuries he sustained in the crash and was subsequently transported to the La Salle County Jail, where he remains in lieu of bond as of presstime.
The Highway Patrol indicated in a prepared statement on Tuesday that it received an alert shortly after 12:30 p.m. Friday from the Webb County Sheriff’s Office that an ambulance had been stolen at the tourist information center beside IH-35 near Milemarker 18, north of Laredo.
Reports from officers involved in the pursuit indicate that the DPS, Webb County and Laredo law enforcement followed the ambulance and that officers from the Encinal PD initiated the pursuit when the suspect reached La Salle County. La Salle County deputies and USBP agents also converged on the suspect.
The pursuit covered a distance of nearly 40 miles on IH-35 before Medina drove out of the northbound lanes of traffic and proceeded north on the highway’s west-side access road.
Preliminary reports of the suspect having been involved in the attempted smuggling of undocumented immigrants have been dismissed as false by law enforcement agents, as Medina was traveling alone.
An investigation into the crash is currently underway at the Department of Public Safety, according to the agency in its prepared statement.