NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The man accused of striking an NOPD officer while driving drunk faces upgraded charges after the officer died Tuesday.
Chau Thai Nguyen, 33, who is a student at the Xavier University College of Pharmacy, was booked with vehicular homicide and reckless operation.
NOPD Officer Natasha Hunter died from injuries she sustained in the traffic collision on I-10 East at Esplanade on Sunday, according to the New Orleans Police Department.
Officer Hunter was an 11-year veteran of the NOPD and was most recently assigned to the First District.
"This is a tragic loss for her family, friends, fellow officers and our entire community," said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison. "Officer Hunter was a dedicated public servant who loved her family, her job and serving her city. We will never forget the sacrifice she made and the hearts and prayers of our entire department our with her family today and always."
Mayor Mitch Landrieu released the following statement: "I am devastated to learn of the passing of Officer Natasha Hunter. She was a dedicated police officer who wore the badge with honor and pride. Her loss is an absolute tragedy. My thoughts and prayers go out to her loved ones and the NOPD family during this difficult time."
Around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, police say Nguyen disregarded warning lights and roadway flares in the area and crashed his black Acura into the rear of Hunter's marked patrol vehicle at a high rate of speed. Officer Hunter, who was in the area responding to a multi-vehicle traffic crash, sustained significant head trauma in the accident.
Nguyen was taken to the hospital for injuries he sustained during the crash. Officers detected a strong smell of alcohol on his breath and Nguyen later admitted to officers that he had consumed several alcoholic beverages earlier in the night. Toxicology results are pending.
A public prayer vigil will take place June 8 at 7 p.m. at NOPD Headquarters at 715 South Broad Street.
Officer Hunter was the mother of a 5-year-old daughter. Funeral arrangements are pending.