HOUSTON (AP) — The uncle of two young brothers killed by a suspected drunk driver who was then fatally shot at the crash scene said Friday that the boys’ father, who was injured in the crash, remembers it as a “blur.”
Gabriel Barajas said his brother, David Barajas Sr., remembers trying to get to his sons after the crash near their Houston-area home and then recalls waking up in a hospital.
“He just said it happened so fast,” Gabriel Barajas said.
David Barajas, along with his sons, 12-year-old David Jr. and 11-year-old Caleb, were pushing the family’s broken-down pickup truck down a dark, narrow road on the night of Dec. 7 and were just 50 yards from home when a car crashed into them.
“He told me … he kept looking back, making sure nobody was coming, nobody was going to run into them,” said Gabriel Barajas.
David Jr., 12, died at the scene while Caleb, 11, died at a hospital. Neighbors said they heard two gunshots minutes after the crash, which happened near Alvin, about 30 miles southeast of Houston. Jose Banda, the 20-year-old driver who plowed into the brothers, was found shot in the head. His death has been ruled a homicide.
Brazoria County sheriff’s investigator Dominick Sanders said authorities were still trying to determine who shot Banda and to find the gun used to kill him. He said investigators believe Banda had been drinking before the crash, and they’re awaiting the results of blood tests. Other toxicology tests have been done to see if Banda had any other substances in his system.
A week after the crash and two days after the brothers’ funeral, Sanders said investigators were still hoping to interview the boys’ father and mother for the first time. She was in the family’s truck with two younger children when the crash happened. Gabriel Barajas said his brother has spoken with authorities.
“Right now they are mourning. The biggest thing was putting the boys to rest,” said Gabriel Barajas, 39. Funeral services for Caleb and David were held on Wednesday.
Sanders has declined to say whether the boys’ parents were tested for gunshot residue after the shooting or whether other forensic evidence was collected and tested. He also declined to explain why investigators hadn’t yet spoken to the couple, but he said potential witnesses in such cases are sometimes given time to grieve and make funeral arrangements first.
Joel Androphy, a Houston attorney not connected to the case, said it’s common for authorities to wait to speak with potential witnesses if these individuals have to deal with burying loved ones.
“You just have to wait until people are ready to talk to you,” he said. “In many cases, people would think this would be disrespectful” to speak with them right away.
Gabriel Barajas said he and his family are aware of speculation that one of the boys’ parents or some other family member might be responsible for shooting Banda.
“Words can’t express how that is putting a damper on us. It’s ugly,” he said. “We’re trying to mourn and we’ve got people saying ‘I heard this’ at the funeral. I don’t care what you heard. It’s ugly. It hurts.”
He offered his condolences to Banda’s family, who has declined to comment about the crash and fatal shooting.
Gabriel Barajas said his family is having a difficult enough time dealing with the loss of his nephews. He said the boys’ father can’t sleep or eat and the boys’ grandfather wants to take down his Christmas tree because there is nothing to celebrate this holiday season.
He said his brother has tried to talk about the accident but “falls to his knees, crying his heart out and he can’t even finish the story and I don’t push it because I don’t want to hear it.”
Gabriel Barajas said he and his family have been helped by the outpouring of support from friends and the community. He recalled his nephews as good boys who were curious and loving and who enjoyed being outdoors and playing football, basketball and soccer.
“It’s a big loss,” he said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juanlozano70