Fatal DUI suspect claims his life was in danger
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The suspect in a deadly DUI is fighting for his freedom, claiming he was only escaping a fight when he drove his truck right into another man. The deadly crash happened two months ago in Southeast Fresno.
Austin Jantz, 18, doesn't deny he was driving drunk or that he left the scene of the crash, but his attorney claims he was running for his life.
Jantz's blood alcohol content was almost twice the legal limit and there's evidence he smoked marijuana as well before killing Shawn Schulte. But the case could turn on whether his life was in danger when he got in his pickup truck and drove away.
A loud party ended in a fight, neighbors called police, and witnesses told officers one of the fighters got in a car and took the chaos to the street.
"The driver of the vehicle proceeded westbound on E. Andrews then, in his words, it appeared her swerved to hit a subject in the roadway," said Fresno police officer Matthew Couto of his interview with one witness.
Police tracked down the 18-year-old driver, Austin Jantz, about two miles away. They eventually arrested him for driving drunk and hit and run.
When Shawn Schulte -- the man he hit -- died, the charges became more serious. But Jantz's attorney, James Wasson, says the teenager was trying to escape an angry mob.
Police say 30 to 40 people were at the party and Wasson asked the officer who found Jantz about his injuries when he was caught.
"As a matter of fact, he looked pretty beaten up, didn't he?" Wasson asked Fresno Police officer Sean Cowart.
"He did appear as though he'd been in a fight," Cowart responded.
The case could come down to whether Jantz was trying to hit Schulte.
Neighbors who weren't involved in the party say Schulte was one of a few people in a crosswalk. They say the truck accelerated from zero to about 35 miles per hour in a short time, then slammed into the 20-year-old.
Two months after his death, Schulte's family and friends are treasuring their memories, and closely monitoring what happens to Jantz in court.
"We just want people to remember him for who he was and we want everyone to just pray and that we love him and we're going to do everything we can to see this through and make sure there's justice for him," said Schulte's stepsister, Janay Flynn.
The judge is expected to rule next week on whether there's enough evidence for Jantz to stand trial on the charges against him.
fresno county, fresno, crimetracker, dui, fresno east central, local, corin hoggard
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