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Portland police under orders to stop wrong-way drivers by force if necessary

Chief Mark Cory tells 3NEWS that his officers tried to help stop the wrong-way driver on the Harbor Bridge on Wednesday night, but they were too late.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Wrong-way drivers have found out that if you don't stop for Portland Police Department officers, they'll stop your vehicle in its tracks.

Portland has seen its share of situations such as the tragic one that played out Wednesday night. 

"We try to get our units down there as they come off the causeway and set up spike strips in an attempt to get the vehicle to stop there,” said Portland Police Chief Mark Cory. “If that doesn't work, I've given the order to all of our officers to ram that vehicle off the roadway."

Cory showed us video after video from the past year-and-a-half of his officers using their patrol cars to ram and take out wrong way drivers who wouldn't stop.

"Our officers make the decision to take decisive action to take this vehicle off the roadway,” he said, narrating one video. “At this point, to avoid a head-on with oncoming and even after this impact, you'll notice the suspect leaves across the highway, and our officers are in foot pursuit."

Cory said his officers got word on Wednesday evening that another one of those wrong-way drivers was heading toward Portland. So, officers headed toward the Harbor Bridge, but they were too late. The wrong-way driver had already killed two people.

One of them was Betsy Mandujano, who was a San Patricio County Sheriff’s Department dispatcher.

"We got to do something,” said San Patricio County Sheriff Oscar Rivera. “This is not going to work. Who's next?"

Cory said his officers handle about half of dozen of these wrong-way driving incidents each year, and promises that any driver who keeps going will be stopped one way or another -- because he believes by ramming those vehicles, he is saving lives by stopping the threat.

"So when people ask me as ‘Chief, why do y'all ram these vehicles with your $70,000 patrol cars?’ and I pull this picture right there….and that's why we ram vehicles to prevent that from happening."

Credit: KIII

TxDOT is implementing a system to potentially keep wrong-way crashes from happening, but that device will take another 6 months before it's ready for use.

The new technology is being installed in an effort to try to cut down on the number of those wrong way driving fatalities.

The new tech will feature a camera and flashing lights -- in addition to signs -- that will try to get the attention of the drivers.

It will eventually be up-and-running along those spots around town that have seen the most wrong-way driving incidents, including the Harbor Bridge.

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