HOUSTON, TX - Several investigations are underway after a pursuit by Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies ends with the death of 16-year-old John Boutte. The teen was killed on Monday night when the pursuit ended in a crash near Memorial City Mall.
"Oh God, I'm going to miss him," said the teen's maternal grandmother Vanessa Bener as she cried. "Everybody's going to miss him."
The crash was reported after a woman had her purse snatched by two young men in the Target parking lot at Memorial City Mall. After witnesses pointed out the car of the alleged crooks, two off-duty deputies who were working security jobs at the mall then went after the accused males. After several miles, the teen driver tried to pass another car on Blalock Street, lost control and crashed. The car flipped and Boutte was killed.
"The way I see it, the police shouldn't have been chasing them," says Boutte's paternal grandmother Barbara Boutte.
Is it surprising to family members to hear the 16-year-old John would be involved in something like snatching someone's purse? "Very much so," says Bener. "That's not my baby. That's not him. That's not his character."
"The police just kept chasing them until the car just flipped in the ditch then hit a tree," adds Barbara.
Two other 16-year-olds in the car survived and were taken into custody. A 17-year-old who was also in the car suffered a broken rib and was admitted into the hospital.
John's loved ones say the 17-year-old told them he and John were asking the driver to let them out of the car but the vehicle only stopped after crashing and killing John.
"I don't know what I'm going to do because he was my life really," added Barbara as she was crying. "He kept me going. It's bad."
John was a sophomore at Dekaney High School where he played basketball during the previous class year.
At this point, none of the surviving teens have been charged with anything. The 17-year-old will be charged as an adult when charges are filed. Investigators say the car that crashed is connected to one of the surviving 16-year-olds.
The Houston Police Department is investigating the theft. The Texas Department of Public Safety is looking into the accident. The Harris County Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs Division is investigating whether the deputies responded appropriately.