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Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in deaths of 3 Illinois police officers in Texas

Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in deaths of 3 Illinois police officers in Texas

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NILES — A Texas man accused of killing three members of the Niles Police Department in a highway crash last year has pleaded guilty to multiple charges filed in the case.

Ivan Robles-Navejas, 29, entered guilty pleas in a Kerry County, Texas, courtroom on Oct. 5 to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the fatal July 2020 crash, said District Attorney Lucy Wilke.

Robles-Navejas, who is being held in jail, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 19, Wilke said. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The crash, which occurred on a Texas highway about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, killed Sgt. Joseph Lazo, 39; retired police officer Joseph Paglia, 52; and community service officer Michael White, 28, all of the Niles Police Department; and a fourth man, Jerry Wayne Harbour of Houston.

The men were riding with the Thin Blue Line Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club in southern Texas when a car driven by Robles-Navejas veered into their lane and hit their motorcycles head-on, authorities said.

Two other motorcycles were also reportedly struck and three people were injured.

Authorities said Robles-Navejas was driving drunk at the time of the crash.

Paglia and White died from their injuries shortly after the crash, while Lazo died in a hospital two weeks later.

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The Niles Police Department marked the one-year anniversary of the crash this year with a small memorial service attended by the officers' families and the department's new chaplain, said Deputy Police Chief Nick Zakula. Members of the department also participated in Walk Like MADD, a fundraiser aimed at ending drunk and drugged driving, in honor of the officers, he said.

"We continue to keep the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers throughout this time," Zakula said in response to the guilty pleas entered in the case.

Lazo, of Morton Grove, joined the Niles Police Department in 2008 and was promoted to sergeant in 2018. White, who served in the U.S. Army, joined Niles Police in 2014 as a community service officer and was working to become a police officer at the time of his death, a representative of the Niles Police Department said.

Paglia, who retired from the force in 2018, was president of the Chicago Chapter of the Thin Blue Line Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, made up of retired and current police officers who help assist the families of officers injured or killed in the line of duty.


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