UT Police Department detectives arrested the Capital Metro bus driver who fatally struck a cyclist in January on a charge of manslaughter, said UTPD Chief David Carter at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Carter said the driver, 40-year-old Mindi Taylor Stafford, was booked in the Bell County Jail in Killeen, Texas, after her arrest at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, with a bond set at $80,000. More charges may follow if more information is found, Carter said.
The charge of manslaughter is based on the detectives’ finding Stafford was driving recklessly and caused the death of 39-year-old cyclist Anthony “Tony” John Diaz, Carter said. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison with a fine not to exceed $10,000, according to the Texas Penal Code.
“We understand Tony’s family and friends suffered a great loss, and the arrest alone will not remedy their grief,” Carter said. “But we sincerely hope it will eventually lead to closure. Our thoughts and prayers continue to extend to all those who Tony touched.”
Both the bus and Diaz were traveling northbound on San Jacinto Boulevard with Diaz next to the bus. Carter said Diaz was doing “everything possible to ride safely.” He was wearing a reflective helmet, operable lights on the front and back of his bicycle, and was riding in empty parking spaces as close to the curb as possible, Carter said.
At some point, the bus left its lane and drifted to the right before the front of the bus collided with Diaz, Carter said. The bus traveled approximately another 110 feet before stopping, dragging Diaz under, Carter said. Diaz was pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash was captured on UT security cameras and internal and external bus cameras. Carter said a review of the footage concluded that the 11 passengers became alarmed as the bus seemed to bear down on the cyclist. Carter, who watched the videos, said one passenger appeared to shout at the bus driver to get her attention to no avail.
Carter said the videos are considered evidence and will not be released prior to Stafford’s trial.
Findings from the investigation do not show that Stafford was under the influence of illegal narcotics or alcohol, but Carter would not answer reporters’ questions as to whether she was under the influence of any legal drugs, as that information will be presented during the trial as evidence.
A search warrant filed Feb. 15 found that Stafford failed part of a field sobriety test and that prescription drugs were found in her backpack.
Travis Transit, the service provider of CapMetro, issued a statement following Stafford’s arrest indicating that her employment at CapMetro had been terminated.
“We are aware of the University of Texas at Austin Police Department’s proceedings today,” the statement said. “The person identified is no longer employed at Travis Transit.”
Carter said a review of mechanical records of the bus show there were no issues with the bus itself, but an independent party is still investigating the possibility of mechanical issues. It is unclear when those results will be released.
The area of the crash was well lit and there was “virtually no traffic” during the time of the crash, Carter said.
Carter said CapMetro fully cooperated with UTPD throughout the investigation. CapMetro released a statement following the press conference.
“Capital Metro was made aware of the arrest and continues to cooperate with law enforcement in their investigation of the Jan. 28 crash,” the statement said. “Our thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of Tony Diaz.”