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Driver charged with murder of pregnant mother of six in N.Y. after verbal clash over smoking

The 35-year-old suspect was allegedly asked by a man not to blow smoke in his children's direction, and then plowed his car into the family.

An upstate New York man was charged with murder after he allegedly drove his car into a family of eight as they stood outside a 7-Eleven store, killing the mother who was pregnant, according to police.

Police said Jason Mendez, 35, intentionally drove into the family after a reported verbal altercation with the father, Sean Deloatch, who asked him not to blow cigarette smoke in the direction of the six children outside the convenience store in Garnerville, a part of Haverstraw, New York.

According to the police complaint, Mendez drove his car across the store parking lot, striking the family, shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday.

"The vehicle struck with such force it continued into the building, heavily damaging the front of the building," a Haverstraw Police Department press release said Thursday. "The driver then backed up the vehicle and drove forward a second time, striking Deloatch and his family."

When police arrived on the scene, they found Mendez in his car, brandishing a knife. Police said that after he did not drop the knife despite being ordered repeatedly to do so, officers tased him.

Mendez was charged with second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder as well as menacing, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon at an arraignment Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against him.

NBC News was unable to immediately determine if he has legal representation at this time.

Jason Mendez
Jason MendezHaverstraw Police Department

Melissa Deloatch, 32, Sean Deloatch's wife and the mother of the couple's six children, was critically injured and pronounced dead at the hospital, according to police. She was a few weeks pregnant, according to the family.

The other seven family members at the scene sustained injuries that were not life-threatening and were taken to a nearby hospital. The six children range in age from 10 months to 10 years old.

"It's a nightmare," Joan Christopher, the mother of Melissa Deloatch, told NBC News on Thursday. "I'm just trying, I'm just going through, you know, being there for my grandchildren. Being there for my son-in-law."

Cindy Schnalzer, a witness to the incident at the 7-Eleven store, told NBC New York that after the family was hit, "I heard the father, he was telling the cops, 'I told him not to blow smoke in front of my kids.'"

Mendez was transferred to Rockland County Correctional Center late Wednesday and will be held there until his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 26.