A day after cops said they wouldn't bother a man who temporarily shut down one of Houston's busiest highways to propose to his girlfriend, an off-duty cop's eyewitness report prompted police to charge the man with a misdemeanor that could land him in jail for up to six months.
Vidal Valladares Navas, 24, made headlines on Dec. 13 by bringing traffic on Houston's Interstate 45 to a standstill, then dropping down on one knee to propose to girlfriend Michelle Wycoff. Navas didn't try to hide his unusual proposal -- family and friends helped him stop traffic and film the proposal, and the resulting photos and video were posted to Instagram and YouTube, among other sites.
The Texas man told his girlfriend they were heading to a party when he stopped suddenly on the I-45 near Houston and asked Wycoff to get out of the car.
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"Honestly, I didn't think about if it was a good idea or a bad idea," Wycoff told the Houston Chronicle. "I was just so happy in the moment. I love him so much."
Wycoff's reaction is muffled by the sounds of angry motorists pounding on their horns in the video posted online, while others shifted onto the shoulder to pass the happy couple.
"I never really thought about causing an accident. I thought about my girlfriend," Navas said.
Initially, Houston police told the Houston Chronicle they would not charge Navas.
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"While we're happy for the couple, this is not something we would want to encourage anyone to do," Houston police spokesman Victor Senties said. "People could have lost their lives stopping on the freeway like that."
But it turns out one of the not-so-amused drivers who passed the scene on the shoulder was an off-duty cop, according to Houston's KPRC, an ABC affiliate. The Harris County District Attorney's Office told the TV news station that Naval will face a single charge of obstructing a highway, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail if Navas is convicted.
Since then, Navas has taken down the initial Instagram post in which he boasted about the proposal, but the video had already been copied and reposted elsewhere. The Texas man was also blasted on social media, where users echoed comments made by authorities and the Texas Department of Transportation.
"Besides being illegal it is incredibly unsafe and we would discourage anyone from taking such unnecessary risk which could result in injury to themselves or others," TxDOT spokeswoman Raquelle Lewis told the Houston Chronicle.