JCSO Deputy James Lee Killed by Suspected DWI Driver in Beaumont, TX
Beaumont, TX — July 9, 2022, 71-year-old Sheriff's Deputy James Lee was hit and killed by an alleged DWI driver on Burrell-Wingate Road in Jefferson County.
According to reports the incident happened around 8:15 p.m. on the 19000 block of Burrell-Wingate Road, east of Texas Highway 124. Preliminary investigation suggests 38-year-old Michael Miller was driving a Toyota 4Runner west on the road. Reports indicate he was traveling too fast for a curve and ran off the road; the Toyota entered a ditch where it struck off-duty JSCO deputy Lee as he operated a riding mower.
Lee suffered fatal injuries in the collision. Miller was taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment and was then taken to county jail on a potential intoxication manslaughter charge.
No further information is available at this time.
Commentary on James Lee Accident in Beaumont
UPDATE (August 9, 2022): Later reports indicate the suspect in this crash had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .192 at the time of the crash. I don't say that in judgment, but confirmation that he was over twice the legal limit for intoxication may mean there's more to investigate than just him.
As I mentioned previously, alcohol-related crashes in Texas and many other states sometimes involve holding the businesses that served it responsible for the damage their intoxicated patrons cause or suffer. Under dram shop law any business that continued serving alcohol if their customer was obviously intoxicated may have a legal duty to help the family of the deputy who lost his life in Beaumont.
Even if that's the case, though, first that over-service must be proven by evidence. Police investigations aren't always helpful for that, so it's usually best for victims and families to get help from independent investigators who know how to get what's needed. Armed with the evidence those experts find, many people hurt by reckless over-service have held bad businesses accountable for breaking the law and contributing to their injuries and losses.
ORIGINAL: The at-fault driver is suspected of some very serious misbehavior here. If evidence shows he was intoxicated as police suspect, then the serious charges mentioned in the news may stick. A man lost his life, after all, and if drunk driving caused that then appropriate consequences should follow. However, is the alleged DWI driver really the only one to hold accountable?
Texas dram shop law says an alcohol provider that over-serves an obviously intoxicated person may be liable for injuries that person causes or suffers while under the influence. The business could be a bar, liquor store, restaurant, or even a gas station, but if its staff serve or sell drinks to someone clearly past his limits then the law says they may be responsible for whatever harm he does.
It's unclear if over-service was an issue in the Beaumont accident. Even if the suspect was drunk, that doesn't mean a bar broke the law by giving him too much. That detail just bears careful consideration in just about any wreck where alcohol and injuries are tied together. Considering the tragic and irreversible damage done in the crash, everyone responsible for the loss of a man's life should be held accountable for their role.