Fort Worth officers praised for stopping drunken-driving suspect at Parade of Lights

FORT WORTH -- Police officials praised three officers this week for stopping a suspected drunken driver before his truck ran into the crowd gathered downtown for the Parade of Lights last Friday.

Officers Linda Hightower, Johnny Bell and Harlan Whitworth "placed themselves into harm's way to save the lives of numerous parade spectators," according to a police news release.

About 6:45 p.m., Hightower was told about a wreck in the 100 block of East Seventh Street, according to the release. She walked there and found a man identified as Juan Carlos Saenz, 22, in the driver's seat of a 2007 black Ford F-150 pickup.

Hightower asked to see his driver's license, but the man handed her a bank slip, the release stated. When Hightower asked again for his license, the driver put the truck in reverse and drove off as Hightower yelled for him to stop.

Hightower chased the truck on foot as it turned north on Commerce Street, which was blocked for the parade. She radioed Bell and Whitworth that the truck was coming, and just as Whitworth turned around, he was hit on his left shoulder by the truck's side mirror, the release stated. Bell was hit in the knee as he tried to stop the truck.

Whitworth jumped into the driver's window and grabbed the driver, yelling at him to stop. The truck came to a halt within five feet of the crowd.

Saenz was arrested and faces charges of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He has previous DWI arrests, online records show. He remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Thursday night with bail set at $6,500.

Chance Welch, 817-390-7684