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Sheriff: Drunk driver struck, killed Smith County deputy
  • Updated

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith says an intoxicated driver killed a deputy after the man rammed his vehicle into the officer, who was outside his vehicle working a traffic stop.

Lorenzo Bustos, 29, was working the stop just before midnight Friday with another deputy, Michael Skinner, the sheriff said. The patrol vehicle was pulled over with its emergency lights on, and two people were handcuffed in the back of the vehicle.

As Skinner sat in the passenger seat working the radio and computer, Bustos was standing several feet behind the vehicle. About 25 minutes after the initial traffic stop, Smith said an alleged intoxicated driver hit Bustos with his vehicle, traveling at a “very moderate to fast speed” on State Highway 155.

The impact pushed Bustos all the way under the patrol vehicle and caused severe injuries he later died from.

The driver was 21-year-old Daniel Nyabuto, of Grand Prairie, Smith said. He was arrested following the crash and charged with intoxication assault, which Smith said will be upgraded to intoxication manslaughter. He was taken into custody, booked in Smith County and moved to the Gregg County Jail.

Bond on the current charge was set at $750,000.

Smith said Bustos suffered head trauma in the crash and died in the intensive care unit around 6 a.m. Friday. He was surrounded by family and deputies.

“He had become to be very loved by all of his cohorts and co-workers,” Smith said. “He was doing a great job.”

Bustos had just recently joined the department. He was there for about five to six months, Smith said, and was still working with a field training officer. Thursday night/Friday morning was the last time he would’ve been working alongside another deputy before going out on duty on his own.

Smith said Bustos leaves behind a wife and children ages 4, 5 and 8. Law enforcement has been by the family’s side during this difficult time and will continue to be, he said. Friday the department gave the family a check from its foundation for a “substantial amount of money” to help support them. Several other agencies pitched in for the donation.

Skinner, 39, had minor injuries and has been released from the hospital.

Skinner immediately got out to check on Bustos and discovered his severe head injuries. He also checked the occupants of Nyabuto’s car and believed they were intoxicated, according to Smith.

The passenger of the vehicle was also arrested and charged with public intoxication.

Nyabuto and the passenger were not injured in the crash. Nyabuto was taken to the hospital for a blood draw to test his intoxication level, Smith said. The two people who were handcuffed in the back of the patrol vehicle weren’t injured either.

Smith County deputies escorted Bustos’ body to Dallas for an autopsy. He will be escorted again when he returns to Smith County, Smith said.

Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating the circumstances of the crash, and further information will be released as it is made available.

aconejo / Ana Conejo/Tyler Morning Telegraph 

Flags fly at half-staff Friday in downtown Tyler in honor of fallen Smith County Deputy Lorenzo Bustos. Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Bustos was struck and killed by a drunk driver during a traffic stop.

Smith said he’s not sure when the injured deputy and other deputies at the department will go back to work, as they mourn the loss of one of their own.

“All we can do is go to the Lord in prayer at this time,” Smith said.

Sgt. Larry Christian, public information officer, said the department appreciates all of the support it has received after the tragedy.

”Please keep Deputy Bustos’ family in your thoughts and prayers as well as his extended Blue family,” Christian said. “Also, keep Deputy Skinner in your thoughts and prayers. No words can express the outpouring of love and kindness expressed by the citizens of our county, state and nation.”

Smith urged the community to understand how dangerous drinking and driving is.

“A DWI will kill someone as quick as a gun will,” Smith said.

He added how strict local law enforcement is on DWIs.

“... and this is the reason,” Smith said.

Bustos previously worked for the Henderson Police Department and Rusk County Sheriff’s Department.

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East Texas chambers join effort to urge state policymakers to strengthen funding for community colleges
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More than 20 leading business and education organizations sent a proposal Thursday to the Texas Commission on Community College Finance (TCCCF) urging it to strengthen funding for community colleges in Texas.

This was in light of the growing skilled workforce shortage that has left over a million job openings across Texas unfilled as of March 2022.

“Industries across our region — and indeed the entire country — are struggling to find skilled, qualified labor,” said Kelly Hall, President and CEO of the Longview Chamber. “That’s why the work of the ongoing Texas Commission on Community College Finance is vital to the future of East Texas. By lowering the bureaucratic barriers and increasing accessibility for students, we can ensure the earnings of employers and employees alike continue to grow.”

The proposal has been in the making for two years and the recommendations were aimed to improve the state’s community college system and the overall economy. The report’s recommendations are designed to fundamentally reform community college finance in Texas and to reflect the needs of the 21st century.

“It takes more than one individual, more than one organization to create the change that we’re looking for to fill in that shortage,” said LaToya Young executive director of the Tyler Area Business Education Council. “We all have to come to the table and have productive conversations and roll up our sleeves to get the work done in order to fill the shortage of workers in the area.”

Young said funding needs have transitioned in the last few years because local community colleges offer diversified services such as dual credit, adult education, certifications, associate degrees and credentials.

“With those additional commitments they are doing… they also need additional funding to help with the cost that they get with all the wonderful services they are offering to the East Texas region,” Young said.

The report stated that “... today, an estimated 86% of all good full-time jobs in the U.S. require a postsecondary credential. By 2030, 62% of all Texas jobs will require the same.”

Young said one of the important solutions offered in the proposal was one about making sure education partners have the flexibility to offer local business and industry partners the education, training and retooling that business partners need.

According to the report, Texas is a leader when it comes to job creation but lacks the skilled talent to fill its workforce. The Longview Chamber reported that 25% of adults have some college but no credential.

Young said we need to listen more to employers of what specific skill sets that they’re looking for to fill the skilled talent needed for jobs.

“There’s no one size fits all and we understand that our workforce partners are very diverse and we know that our community colleges need flexibility to offer what those business and industry partners are looking for,” Young said.

Young said she hopes the proposal will start more conversations.

“That’s how we create change, by having conversations [and] bringing all interested parties to the table to create change not just on a state level but as a local level for what’s best for our community,” Young said. “So we are hoping this pushes the conversation on how to fill that workforce shortage and that gap.”

The proposal was supported by multiple chambers of commerce and education organizations in Tyler, Longview Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and more.

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Fallen deputy Bustos 'ambitious' in his career, made impact on law enforcement agencies
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Deputy Lorenzo Bustos was on his last shift of training Friday night when he was killed in the line of duty.

At the end of that shift, Bustos would’ve had his first chance to go solo at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office after working alongside a field training officer.

Bustos was killed by what the sheriff’s office said was a drunk driver, who struck him at a “moderate to very fast speed” as he worked a traffic stop just after midnight Friday. Bustos was standing behind the patrol vehicle when the vehicle hit him. The driver, 21-year-old Daniel Nyabuto, was arrested and will be charged with intoxication manslaughter, Sheriff Larry Smith said.

Bustos was at the sheriff’s office for less than six months after previously working for other local law enforcement agencies.

The 29-year-old was early in his career but had high aspirations, said Bryan Pool, who hired Bustos at the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office a few years ago.

“He wanted to excel in his career and promote up ... He was ambitious, just a lot of fire, a lot of heart,” Pool said in an interview with CBS19.


Lorenzo Bustos

After a year, Bustos left the sheriff’s office to work for the Henderson County Police Department where he worked for over a year. He started working for Smith County this year, where he quickly bonded with the department.

“He had become to be very loved by all of his cohorts and co-workers,” Smith said. “He was doing a great job.”

Bustos may have been just getting started on his career in law enforcement, but it didn’t take long for him to make an impact on those in the field. News of his death spread quickly and drew an outpouring of support from the law enforcement community.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our brothers ... The officers at Henderson Police Department are in mourning and extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends at their darkest and hardest time. Deputy Bustos will forever hold a special place at Henderson Police Department,” Henderson PD said on its Facebook page.

East Texas sheriff’s offices and police departments posted on their Facebook pages an image of the Smith County Sheriff’s Office back with a black line over it. Soon, agencies across the state began to share the image and offer words of comfort to fellow officers and Bustos’ family.

He was “a young deputy who has left us way too soon,” the East Texas Peace Officers Association said.

Bustos leaves behind a wife and three children, ages 4, 5 and 8. A lieutenant has been assigned to stay with the deputy’s wife until he is laid to rest, Smith said.

Locally in downtown Tyler, flags were lowered to half-staff Friday in support of the fallen officer.

“I am deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic death of a Smith County Sheriff’s Deputy, who died while in the line of duty protecting our citizens,” Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said. “I cannot express how deep my sympathy is for the family, and for the law enforcement community who mourn his passing most deeply. We issue fervent prayers of comfort during this time, and stand ready to do all possible for the family and for the sheriff’s office.”

At Moran’s request, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered U.S. and Texas flags to be lowered to half-staff, CBS19 reported.

In a letter to Moran, Abbott said said flags may remain at half-staff through the memorial service or upon final interment, at Moran’s discretion.

“The first lady and I extend our prayers of comfort to the Bustos family during their time of grief, and we urge all Texans to remember and honor Deputy Bustos’ service as a brave and dedicated law enforcement officer,” Abbott said in the letter.

Among the many messages of support from East Texans was one from Bustos’ former high school. Chapel Hill said its “hearts are deeply saddened by the loss” of the 2011 graduate, “who lost his life serving our community.”

The Smith County Sheriff’s Office said it appreciates all the support it has received.

“No words can express the outpouring of love and kindness expressed by the citizens of our county, state and nation,” said Sgt. Larry Christian, public information officer.

“... Please keep Deputy Bustos’ family in your thoughts and prayers as well as his extended Blue family,” Christian said, adding that Deputy Michael Skinner is also in need of prayers. Skinner was the deputy working alongside Bustos when he was struck.

Smith said he’s not sure when Skinner and other deputies at the department will go back to work, as they mourn the loss of one of their own.

“All we can do is go to the Lord in prayer at this time,” Smith said.

An account has been set up to help support Bustos’ family. Visit to donate.

Bible verse 7.30.22

“I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.”

(Psalm 119:93)