A Texas mother was killed Monday in the parking lot of EPISD's Tippin Elementary in West El Paso after the first day of school.
Kharisma Ashlee James, 33, was struck by a car driven by Roger Hawking. Three children also were injured in the accident.
District officials said Monday that the mother attempted to get in front of the car to protect the three children.
"She was trying to get in front of the kids," EPISD spokesman Gustavo Reveles said.
But the following day, EPISD police department officials said that the incident was still being investigated and that the events leading up to the accident had not been confirmed.
“We don’t know yet,” EPISD police Chief Victor Araiza said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “It sounds like the driver was disoriented and confused. We don’t know if the driver was having a medical issue. We just don’t know yet.”
Araiza said the 58-year-old driver struck a vehicle when he was pulling out of a parking space. "When he struck that vehicle, apparently, it seems he became somewhat disoriented," Araiza said. "He continued out into the roadway of the parking lot (and) he struck three children.”
Araiza said Tuesday that after the driver struck the children, he hit the accelerator instead of the brake, and that's when he struck the mother.
Who is the victim, Kharisma Ashlee James?
The mother who was killed has been identified as Kharisma Ashlee James, 33. James was a nurse, who worked at the Hospitals of Providence, and she was former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, where she served two tours of duty in Iraq.
The three children injured in the accident are not being identified because of their ages. They are 6, 7, and 10 years old. James is the mother of the two younger children.
James grew up in Massachusetts and participated in ROTC in high school before joining the Army. She had planned to stay in the Army long-term, but that changed her mind when she became pregnant with her first child.
She began studying nursing at the El Paso Community College and transferred to the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing after receiving the scholarship from the Women's Fund.
"It's just very sad. I know she was going to make a huge difference in this community," said Elizabeth Dodd, who sits on the Women's Fund scholarship committee.
After the accident, the three children were transported to El Paso hospitals. Araiza and EPISD officials said Tuesday morning that the children were in serious condition but that they were improving.
"All of those children are expected to survive," Araiza said.
The driver of the car has been identified as 58-year-old Roger Hawking. Officials said that the accident occurred when he was backing out of a space at Tippin Elementary's parking lot after picking up his grandchildren.
An El Paso Times review of Hawking found no prior criminal record or charges.
Police and an EPISD spokesman said Monday that the driver of the car had been detained; however, it was unclear Tuesday what charges Hawking might face or whether he was still being held.
When asked directly about citations or charges, Araiza said that the investigation was ongoing and that his staff was working with the El Paso Police Department's Special Traffic Investigations unit.
He was, however, deliberate in saying that Hawking was solely responsible for the accident.
"It is difficult to describe how this could have been prevented,” Araiza said Tuesday. “The actuality is that the responsible person for this is the driver of that vehicle. The fault does not rest on the school administration. The fault rests on individual who was operating that vehicle and was not familiar with it. He unfortunately caused those significant injuries (to) those three children and he caused the death of that mother."
Araiza said that the incident was not caused by any unsafe conditions in the parking lot or drop-off zones at the school.
“It is a very tragic accident,” Araiza said. “The school administration has done everything they can to ensure a smooth flow through this parking lot and they have made every effort to make sure the students, faculty and staff that are here are safe.”
EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera said he met with parents Tuesday morning to discuss safety concerns related to the parking lot and the roadway in the area. He said district officials would work to increase police presence on campuses to help with safety.
At least two EPISD police patrol cars and one motorcycle officer were on hand at Tippin Elementary to oversee and control traffic Tuesday morning. The motorcycle officer issued several citations.
Cabrera said that although each of the district's 92 campuses is different, parents can improve safety by slowing down in pickup and drop-off areas.
He said individual principals and parent-teacher associations are in the best position to improve campuses' procedures, "we are going to reach out across the district and ask parents to slow down.”