MOORE, Okla. — A second student has died after a pickup struck a group of cross country students from Moore High School Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.
Authorities say Rachel Freeman, Yuridia Martinez and four other students were running in a neighborhood near the school about 3:30 p.m. when a pickup driven by convicted felon Max Leroy Townsend struck a vehicle, went sideways and slammed into the runners. The pickup then hit two more vehicles before Townsend fled the scene. Freeman was pronounced dead on Monday, and officials confirmed Tuesday that Martinez, who was hospitalized in critical condition after being hit, also had died from her injuries.
Moore High School will hold a vigil at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, at the school's large gym. The event is open to the public.
Moore school officials said Monday they were trying to process the deadly incident "that is unbearable to comprehend."
"This evening and as we move forward through this unthinkable tragedy — please keep our students, staff and families in your thoughts and prayers," according to a school statement on Facebook.
Townsend was apprehended about five blocks from the scene as witnesses pointed police in the direction the pickup left the scene. The suspect was booked into the F. Dewayne Beggs Detention Center late Monday in connection with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident with injury.
Community members, school officials and first responders say they are mourning while trying to determine how the deadly incident occurred.
Police said Townsend was driving the vehicle that struck the six track and cross country runners around the 1100 block of East Main Street. Track and cross country runners typically cover a course around the school and in surrounding neighborhoods.
Others injured were Joseph White, Kolby Crum, Shiloh Hutchison and Ashton Baza. Crum was listed in critical condition at Children's Hospital late Monday while White and Hutchison were in fair condition. Baza was discharged from the hospital.
A warrant was obtained late Monday by police to draw blood from the suspect so they could determine if he was intoxicated. Moore Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said he received information that "there are indications that [the suspect] possibly was intoxicated."
Cleveland County First Assistant District Attorney Travis White said prosecutors intend to visit with police investigators as soon as possible. The filing of felony charges against the suspect will be determined by the specifics of the case, if the suspect was intoxicated and if there was an intent to hurt the runners, White said.
This isn't Townsend's first encounter with law enforcement. He pleaded guilty to DUI charges in McClain County in 1997 and 2003 and received suspended prison sentences both times. Townsend was charged with DUI in 2003 in Marshall County and again in 2014 in Grady County, but both of those charges were dismissed.
He pleaded guilty to child abuse in 2002 and pleaded no contest in 2005 to possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of stolen property. All of the charges were filed in Grady County. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident-property damage in 2003 in Marshall County.
In 2014, Townsend was charged with stalking in Canadian County, but that charge was later dismissed.
As of Monday night, Townsend had not made a statement or indicated if there was any motive or intent to hit the runners, Lewis said. Monday's tragedy was compounded by another crash that occurred Sunday afternoon when Townsend's son was killed in Moore, Lewis confirmed. Three vehicles were involved in the wreck with one flipping. The occupant of that vehicle died at the scene.
Lewis said police found Townsend four to five blocks from the scene with students' help. Students also called 911 after the incident, Lewis said.
"A lot of students witnessed the actual crash and were on scene when we arrived, some of those actually pointing out the direction the vehicle continued on, which helped us locate the vehicle," Lewis said.
Dustin Horstkoetter, director of safety and security with Moore Public Schools, said students and athletic personnel near the crash were quick to help the victims.
"We've got a lot of very special people that live and go to school here in Moore, and to come around the corner and see kids and coaches giving first aid and helping their classmates and their students — we live in a really good community," Horstkoetter said.
Horstkoetter said while district administrators are currently discussing how to move forward, district officials will be supporting the students.
"We're going to get through it — we've gotten through a lot in the past — and this community's strong and we're resilient, but it's tough," Horstkoetter said "It's tough — it gets kind of old to have to deal with stuff like this, and my heart is hurting and broken."
Freeman was scheduled to participate in National Signing Day Wednesday with her letter of intent to run at Ouchita Baptist University, in Arkadelphia, Ark.
First Moore Baptist Church canceled its upcoming Senior Night because of the incident, a church representative told The Transcript.
Farley is news editor and Keith writes for The Norman Transcript, a CNHI LLC publication.