Police across North Texas will be out in force this holiday weekend, not only targeting drunk drivers but also street racers and those taking over intersections and highways for car stunts.
A Pleasant Grove mother is sharing her story and pleading for street racers to consider the consequences.
“I want people to see,” said Marisol Gomez seated on a bench at Laurel Oaks Cemetery where she asked NBC 5 to share her story.
The latest news from around North Texas.
“A person that was racing, they took my life away from me, by taking my daughter’s life,” she said.
She visits her daughter’s gravesite three to four times a week, sometimes her younger daughters ask to go see their sister.
Olivia Mendez was just 9-years-old.
Two years ago this week, Olivia and her family were driving along Lake June Road in Pleasant Grove.
They had just celebrated Olivia’s fourth-grade graduation.
Police said three drivers were racing each other down the busy stretch of road when suddenly one of the drivers smashed into the family’s car.
Olivia’s stepfather was driving and was seriously hurt, as was her mom in the passenger seat and her then-three-year-old sister in the back.
Gomez said Olivia was thrown out of her seatbelt and out of the car by the impact.
The racer’s car, she said, had been traveling over 100 miles an hour.
Her injured stepfather frantically went searching for the girl and saw a crowd gathered near a nearby STOP sign.
“He picked her up, she was faced down and she was just taking very deep breaths,” said Gomez through tears. “But she was already gone.”
Two of the suspects, Hector Camarena and Diego Gaytan are each serving five-year prison sentences. Camarena accepted a plea deal.
The main suspect, Ricky Jackson is out awaiting his trial expected in July. Jackson’s case has had many delays, in part due to the pandemic.
“The detective told me that [Jackson] said that he just wanted to show some punks what it was to have a race car,” said Gomez.
Anger and grief have taken a toll on Olivia’s family.
There’s now another plot nearby. Olivia’s father took his own life in February.
“Olivia was his only daughter and he was just – we were all hurting – but he was just done,” said Gomez. “Now he’s here and she’s here and it’s just never-ending hurt from a senseless thing that someone did.”
Olivia’s memory has not been forgotten.
Her school, Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary in Pleasant Grove, will hold a private dedication ceremony on campus next week in honor of the bright student loved by all.
“She just stood out,” said fourth-grade teacher Elena Cardoza. “Any day, ‘How can I help? What can I do for you?’ helping others in the classroom.”
Cardoza remembers Olivia as a helper, a kind student and someone other students still talk about.
“That’s why it is so difficult to talk about her in the past tense because her essence still lives on so much, so much in others and memories: Oh, she would have done this or this is what she did so we should strive to have that behavior, that good character.”
The effort to cut down on illegal street racing, stunts and takeovers is ongoing in the city of Dallas.
The police department formed a special task force targeting the illegal activities.
A bill is moving through the state legislature that would seize and forfeit street racer's cars if someone is hurt, under the influence or if it is a second offense.
Olivia was just shy of her 10th birthday. She loved cheerleading, she wanted to be a doctor one day.
She loved for her mom to put her hair up in a ponytail with curls.
“She always said she was Princess Jasmine because of her long, black hair,” said Gomez. "She was a good little girl with the funniest laugh and the perfect smile. She was perfect.”