The wound did not immediately kill Hector Lopez Jr., but he was brain dead by the time he had been airlifted to a San Antonio hospital from the scene of the chase’s conclusion — on Interstate 37, about six miles north of Three Rivers, officials said.
Authorities believe Lopez’s erratic driving was caused by drugs and alcohol.
“We’re still investigating why he did it,” Live Oak County Sheriff Larry Busby said Monday. “We don’t know why at this time.... He got out of prison about a year ago, and it’s possible that might have had something to do with it.”
The chase began about 2 a.m. Sunday when Live Oak County authorities received a relay call from San Patricio (near Mathis) of a northbound two-door Ranger pickup traveling erratically along I-37.
In all, Lopez is believed to have traveled through 30 miles of Live Oak County. But he spent only 11 of those miles being chased by authorities, reports show.
“He was going about 66 mph but was driving dangerously — crossing lanes and going over the shoulder of the road,” the sheriff said. “Our deputy used his lights and siren to pull him over, but he refused to stop.”
A second deputy joined the chase where I-37 meets Highway 72, but the driver still refused to pull over.
Additionally, a Three Rivers police officer joined the chase, placing spikes on I-37 in an attempt to deflate Lopez’s tires.
“When his (pickup) passed over them, the tires deflated, and he came to a stop,” Sheriff Busby said. “The guy’s vehicle came to rest all over the road — in both the slow and fast lanes.”
When an officer approached Lopez’s vehicle, he saw the driver’s head suddenly slump forward but could not hear a gunshot because it was apparently muffled by the (pickup), the sheriff said.
“When he got up to the locked (pickup), the guy was slumped over the steering wheel,” the sheriff said. “He still seemed to be breathing, and the handgun was lying between his feet.”
Lopez is believed to have shot himself with a .40-caliber Springfield, stolen from a store in San Antonio. A second .40-caliber handgun was also found in the pickup.
Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress newspaper in Three Rivers. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenTinsley, Google at http://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.