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Cops: Driver Plows Into Family of 8 Over Smoking Dispute

The mother was killed; 6 young children and father were injured
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2019 11:47 AM CST
The dispute happened outside a 7-Eleven.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

(Newser) – A man who was asked not to smoke near children allegedly responded by plowing his vehicle into a family of eight—twice—with fatal consequences. Police say the scene at a 7-Eleven in Haverstraw, NY, began around 1:50pm Wednesday when the family's father asked the man not to smoke a cigarette around his six young children, including an infant, report the Journal News and New York Post. Authorities say 35-year-old Jason Mendez then drove into the family, smashing the storefront in the process, before reversing and striking the group again, reports the AP. The 32-year-old mother—a GoFundMe page names her as Melissa DeLoatch—was killed. The 35-year-old father and all six children, ages 10 and younger, were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, including broken bones. WFMY describes a "crumpled stroller" at the scene.

Police Capt. Martin Lund says Mendez, found sitting in his car, "didn't say anything initially" to responding officers. But he then brandished a knife, which "he refused to drop," Lund says. He was eventually detained after police used a Taser. In court Wednesday, Mendez's lawyer said his client—with ties to Texas, where he has at least three prior arrests—lost his cellphone repair job a week ago. He pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted second-degree murder and is being held in Rockland County jail. Police say "several additional charges will be filed." The Post notes the damage to the 7-Eleven forced the town to issue an order to vacate. Bouquets of flowers were spotted outside the building early Thursday, per CBS New York. (Read more murder stories.)

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