State Police troopers responded to a three car fatal wreck around 4am on Feb. 28, 2022 in which Zashawn Dawson, 14, died and three people were arrested.
The initial investigation reveals the wreck happened on I-10 just west of Hwy. 61 in Ascension Parish. Troopers said Emmanuel Ruiz, 24, of Pride was driving with three passengers going west on I-10 in a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado. Tyler Melancon, 22, of Greenwell Springs was a passenger in the truck with Ruiz.
At the same time, Arnold Smith, 21, of Baton Rouge was pulled over on the right shoulder on I-10 with his five passengers in a 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe. Dawson, 14, and Cartara Johnson, 18, of Baton Rouge were passengers in the Hyundai SUV.
As Smith was merging back onto the interstate, the Chevrolet truck hit the back of the Hyundai causing it to overturn and exit the right side of the roadway. Dawson was ejected into the left lane of I-10 as the Hyundai was turning over. After being ejected, Troopers said a Hyundai Sonata going west on I-10 hit Dawson. The 14-yr-old was not wearing a seatbelt according to troopers and died on scene.
Everyone else in the Santa Fe & the Chevrolet truck survived and had minor injuries. The Hyundai driver was buckled and had no injuries.
During the investigation, State Police found that Johnson, 18, was in possession of a stolen firearm. She was arrested and booked for illegal possession of stolen firearms.
State Police added that at first, Melancon told troopers he was driving the Chevrolet at the time of the crash. Through further investigation, troopers found out that Ruiz was in fact the driver of the Chevrolet. Troopers observed Ruiz displayed obvious signs of impairment and placed him under arrest.
Ruiz was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, eight counts of vehicular negligent injuring, obstruction of justice, 1st offense DWI, and no driver’s license. Melancon was also arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.