Police

Dallas Police Hunt Roving Community of Street Drag Racers

The street racers thundered down the stretch of roadway near an industrial area in the 8400 block of Eastpoint Drive last Saturday night. They drove mostly foreign cars, but Mustangs and other American-made muscle cars sometimes made an appearance.

When the racers appeared again last Monday, Dallas police’s Southeast Deployment and Crime Response Team moved in. Officers confined more than 70 racers and spectators. Five street racers were arrested, and another was picked up on outstanding warrants.

Dallas police and street racers play a constant game of cat and mouse. Dallas police reported that drivers previously had been racing off Forney Road in the Pleasant Grove area. Police responded and arrested more than a dozen people and impounded five vehicles.

The displaced racers moved their drag strip a few blocks north to the 8400 block of Eastpoint Drive, a warehouse district with straight streets. It was a move that led workers and residents near the area to call police.

"I personally witnessed these reckless idiots when I worked out of one of the warehouses," William Workley, a former warehouse driver, wrote in a comment on Facebook. "I had to shuttle trailers through their 'drag strip.' I too called police, but it was deemed low priority incident and never saw a cop."

The Dallas police wouldn't respond to requests for comment.

Street racers use social media to set up late-night rendezvous and are dedicated to the lifestyle.

"Racing is addictive like fishing and hunting," Yello Belly Drag Strip's Patricia Wright told the Observer in a Dec. 6, 2016, cover story. "[The street racers] are all buddies. Some are functional, and some are dysfunctional."

Those arrested last Monday include 19-year-old Christian Torres of Garland, 26-year-old Herbert Umanzor of Dallas, 21-year-old David Lopez of Dallas, 19-year-old Christopher Lopez of Carrollton, 19-year-old Steven Hernandez of Seagoville and 22-year-old Rafael Cardenas of Glenn Heights.

"They pick areas with little traffic and race a little bit of everything." – William Workley, who has witnessed street racing

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Nine vehicles were towed, five for racing, three for failure to maintain insurance and one because its owner was arrested for outstanding warrants from Lancaster, Mesquite and Red Oak. Five people also received citations for having a BB gun, an eighth of marijuana and two grams of cocaine.

Workley says he never witnessed any of the street racers crash near Forney Road. However, he saw street racers meeting to race a couple of times a week last year. But only black marks on the roadway and sometimes a bumper or two on the side of the road marked their late-night passing.

Workley, a Garland resident, says there have been similar issues with street racers over at South Jupiter Road near West Miller Road.

"They pick areas with little traffic," he says, "and race a little bit of everything."

In August 2016, an innocent bystander was killed by a street racer when he stepped into the street in the 8300 block of Lake June Road in the Pleasant Grove area. Two vehicles had been racing around 9:45 p.m. when one hit the bystander. Two street racers were arrested on a second-degree felony charge of street racing that caused serious bodily injury or death.

The most recent headline appeared when The Dallas Morning News reported that a drive-by shooting disrupted a street race in the Stemmons Corridor on April 20. A 22-year-old spectator, Miguel Sotelo-Trujillo, was killed as he watched the race.

Although Workley claims law enforcement never responded to his complaints, Dallas police reported that the racing sting last Monday night was the result of ongoing public feedback. Police said they spent about a month investigating, gathering intelligence through surveillance and developing a plan to end the street races. Once they determined that street racers were active in the Eastpoint Drive area Mondays and Saturdays, they initiated a strategic plan and picked a date to execute the operation: June 5.

Dallas police reported that officers watched the races and identified several racers and spectators. The department didn't indicate how the Crime Response Team was able to confine a majority of people to the 8400 block of Eastpoint Drive.

All five street racers facing one charge of racing on the highway were released from custody after posting bond shortly after their arrest that night.
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.

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