Amarillo, TX - The Texas Department of Public Safety is facing a wrongful death lawsuit in a local case that spans three years.
On the night of March 23rd, 2010, officers attempted to arrest 24 year-old Israel Leija, Jr. in Tulia on a warrant for a probation violation. Leija fled, leading police and state troopers north up I-27 to Randall County just outside Canyon.
DPS troopers had set up a roadblock and spike strips ahead of his path, and as he reached that point, a state trooper fired several rounds through his windshield, striking him at least four times. Leija's car then rolled several times, partially ejecting him. Leija was pronounced dead on scene, and according to court documents, there was alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time of his death.
His family then filed criminal charges against the trooper who fired, but a Randall County grand jury rejected any indictment, and he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.
The family then filed civil charges against the Department of Public Safety as a whole, seeking unspecified damages for Leija's children. The DPS filed a motion to dismiss those charges in April of last year, but on Monday (Mar. 11), District Judge Mary Lou Robinson denied that motion.
According to federal court records, the case will be stayed for thirty days to allow the plaintiffs time to find an attorney.