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Alleged driver of car that crashed into Arkansas River is charged with first-degree felony murder, DUI

Alleged driver of car that crashed into Arkansas River is charged with first-degree felony murder, DUI

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The man whose car careened into the Arkansas River early Monday when he allegedly attempted to flee from the police now faces a first-degree felony murder charge.

Tulsa County prosecutors filed the charge Wednesday against Jose Alan Lara Garcia in the south Tulsa crash that severely injured one of his passengers and killed another.

Lara Garcia also faces charges of DUI causing great bodily injury and endangering others while eluding a police officer, according to court documents.

The 23-year-old is accused of fleeing from a Tulsa police officer who attempted to stop him for driving recklessly near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue about 3 a.m. Monday.

Lara Garcia sped westbound, and his car went through the T-intersection at Riverside Drive, struck several poles and careened off an embankment and into the river, police wrote in an arrest affidavit.

Its occupants were ejected, and Lara Garcia reportedly attempted to swim away from officers. He was eventually taken into custody and to a hospital for minor injuries and a blood draw. Officers reported that he had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol, and was slurring his speech and unsteady on his feet.

Lara Garcia reportedly told officers he was driving the car. An officer pulled his front seat passenger, who reportedly was face down and unresponsive, from the water. He was taken in critical condition to a hospital, where he remained Thursday.

At some point during interviews, Lara Garcia told officers that a third person was in the car during the pursuit — a woman who was sleeping in the back seat.

Rescue crews attempted to find the woman at daybreak Monday, but they recovered only the car. The next day, the water level in the river had lowered, and they found the body of Nathaly Medina not far from where the car was recovered.

Medina, 19, would have turned 20 on Wednesday. A Tulsa woman organized a GoFundMe page for donations to offset the cost to Medina’s family to “lay their beautiful daughter to rest.” Those interested in contributing may do so at bit.ly/NathalyMedina.

Lara Garcia was not sought on any warrants at the time of the traffic stop, police have said, so officers were initially uncertain as to why he decided to flee, besides his possible intoxication.

Court documents reveal that he was under suspended sentences in at least three Tulsa County cases as of March 8, with convictions for obstruction, larceny of an automobile, reckless driving and possession of a stolen vehicle.

At the time of the pursuit, he was tasked with complying with the rules and conditions of his supervision to avoid three concurrent two-year sentences in Department of Corrections custody and a one-year sentence in custody at the Tulsa County jail, also to run concurrently.

On Wednesday, prosecutors presented three choices to the court for count No. 1, addressing Lara Garcia’s alleged role in Medina’s death: first-degree felony murder, modified by the eluding charge; first-degree manslaughter in the commission of a misdemeanor, DUI; or first-degree manslaughter in the commission of a misdemeanor, reckless driving.

For his alleged role in his front seat passenger’s life-threatening injuries, count No. 2, Lara Garcia was charged with DUI causing great bodily injury.

He remained in the Tulsa County jail Thursday. A court date has not yet been set, according to online records.

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Staff Writer

I write because I care about people, policing and peace, and I believe the most informed people make the best decisions. I joined the Tulsa World in 2019 and currently cover breaking news. Phone: 918-581-8455

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