INDIANAPOLIS – For witnesses at the scene, it was clear: the driver ran a red light.
It cost one man his life.
Ismael Beltran-Torres now faces seven counts in connection with the Labor Day weekend crash at U.S. 31 and Edgewood Avenue on the south side, including causing death when operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing catastrophic injury when operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person 18 or under.
He’s also accused of driving with a BAC over .15 and operating a motor vehicle without ever receiving a license. The charges include six felonies and a misdemeanor.
Information from the probable cause affidavit showed witnesses and investigators smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage on Beltran-Torres. Even more jarring: two children, 3 and 7 years old, were in Beltran-Torres’ Dodge Ram when the crash happened.
Indianapolis Metropolitan police responded to the crash around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3. Investigators said Beltran-Torres’ Ram was heading west on Edgewood when it ran a red light and slammed into the passenger side of a Jeep Compass heading north on U.S. 31.
The violent collision led to the death of 52-year-old Robert Fullerton, a passenger in the Jeep who absorbed what was essentially a direct hit. He died from multiple blunt force injuries, according to an autopsy.
The driver of the Jeep suffered “catastrophic” trauma, including a head injury, spinal fractures, fractured ribs, collapsed lungs, a broken left femur and a broken left elbow. The driver remains in intensive care and faces a “long road to recovery,” according to investigators.
After impact with the Jeep, Beltran-Torres’ pickup truck slammed into a Toyota Corolla heading north on U.S. 31. The Toyota then slid into the south lanes of U.S. 31 and struck a Hyundai Sonata. All four vehicles sustained significant damage from the collisions.
The two juveniles in the back seat of the Ram didn’t suffer any visible injuries, although they were taken to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health as a precaution due to their age and the nature of the crash. Beltran-Torres suffered what investigators described as minor injuries.
The driver and passenger in the Toyota were taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital; the driver suffered minor injuries while the passenger “had a complaint of pain to her back,” according to court documents.
The driver of the Hyundai was not injured.
Witnesses told investigators similar stories: the light turned green on U.S. 31, and traffic proceeded through the intersection. A pickup truck failed to stop for a red light on Edgewood and slammed into the passenger side of the Jeep.
Two people in a vehicle directly behind the Jeep saw the collision. They went to check on the passenger of the Jeep but said they “did not get a response from him.”
Other witnesses said they were in a vehicle on U.S. 31 when they saw a white truck bearing down on them. Beltran-Torres’ vehicle “missed the back of their SUV by what appeared to be inches” and then hit the Jeep. The driver saw others helping Beltran-Torres out of the Ram and said he “was staggering.”
Two other witnesses reported seeing the Ram run the red light and slam into the Jeep; they stopped to find Beltran-Torres appearing to go in and out of consciousness behind the wheel. The two children in the back seat were crying. The passenger in the Jeep appeared to be dead, the witnesses said. Multiple individuals told police they could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Beltran-Torres.
When police encountered Beltran-Torres at Eskenazi Hospital, they also smelled an alcoholic beverage on him. His clothing was “soiled with vomit” and he had bloodshot, glassy eyes, according to court documents. He was exhibiting “violent, abusive behavior” toward the medical staff. Police were unable to interview him because of his “violent demeanor.”
A judge approved a warrant for a blood draw; tests showed his blood alcohol level was .173, nearly twice the state’s legal limit of .08.
Investigators were able to recover surveillance video from a nearby Speedway. While the video was described as grainy, investigators were able to see Beltran-Torres’ pickup truck run a red light on Edgewood Avenue before the collision.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office filed formal charges in the case on Monday. Beltran-Torres made his initial appearance Tuesday. A trial is scheduled for November.