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1 person killed and 13 injured in semitrailer crash at a Texas public safety office

Law enforcement personnel work at the scene after a stolen 18-wheeler crashed into a Texas Department of Public Safety office on US-290 in Brenham, Texas on Friday.
Meredith Seaver
Law enforcement personnel work at the scene after a stolen 18-wheeler crashed into a Texas Department of Public Safety office on US-290 in Brenham, Texas on Friday.

BRENHAM, Texas — A Texas semitrailer driver rammed a stolen 18-wheeler through the front of a public safety building where his renewal for a commercial driver's license had been rejected, killing one person and injuring 13 others, authorities said Friday.

The intentional crash into the single-story brick building off a highway in Brenham, a rural town outside of Houston, littered debris in the parking lot and left a gaping hole in the entrance. The crash damaged the front of the red semitrailer, which was hauling materials on a flatbed.

After crashing into the building the first time, the driver backed up the truck with the intention of smashing it again before being detained, Brenham Mayor Atwood Kenjura said.

"It's unfortunate that we are here gathered for a really senseless tragedy," Kenjura said.

The driver — identified as Clenard Parker, 42 — was pulled out of the truck by authorities at the Texas Department of Public Safety office. Authorities say Parker did not resist when he was taken into custody and would face multiple felonies, but did not specify the charges.

On Thursday, Parker was told by employees at the office that he would not be eligible to renew his commercial driver's license, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Justin Ruiz said. He did not elaborate as to why Parker's renewal was rejected.

One employee in the building was trapped "for a period of time" after the crash but no one who worked at the driver's license office suffered serious injuries, Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst said.

It was unclear Friday afternoon where the person who was killed was located at the time of the crash.

Following the crash, two people were flown to a hospital in Bryan and another to Houston. Three people were transported to local hospitals but later released, and eight others were treated on the scene.

Parker, who lived in Chappell Hill about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of the crash site, was being held without bail Friday in the Washington County jail in Brenham on two initial charges — suspicion of evading arrest causing serious bodily injury and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

It wasn't immediately clear if Parker had a lawyer or would be appointed one at a future court appearance. The jail's website didn't list an attorney or pending court date.

Ruiz said he didn't know if Parker had a criminal record. He said they were still investigating whether he was armed at the time of the crash. He said they also were investigating whether his actions might be considered an act of terrorism.

"We're trying to figure that out," Ruiz said. He said the FBI was assisting in the investigation.

A heavy presence of police surrounded the building and drivers were urged to steer clear of the area on Friday. Brenham, a city of about 19,000 residents, is about 80 miles (128 kilometers) miles west of Houston.

Kolkhorst and Kenjura said the quick response by law enforcement helped avert a greater tragedy.

"We're blessed more weren't injured in this act of violence," Kolkhorst said.

Kenjura said a fire department official told him if Parker had "veered to the left" and succeeded in striking the building again, "there would have been a collapse of the building resulting in more injuries and possibly death."

The Texas Department of Public Safety is a sprawling agency and one of the largest state law enforcement operations in the country. It includes troopers who are a central part of a massive border security operation on the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the Texas Rangers, the state's top criminal investigators. But the department also has offices across the state that issue driver's licenses.

The Texas Rangers were leading the investigation into the crash, Ruiz said.

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The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]