BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Four weeks after a crash involving Bakersfield police officers that killed one person and severely injured another, the man who called 911 spoke with 17 News about what he saw when he arrived at the scene.
The Bakersfield Police Department and California Highway Patrol have not provided many answers about the investigation since the crash on Jan. 19.
The crash killed Mario Lares, 31, and left passenger Ana Hernandez, 34, with serious injuries. Two Bakersfield police officers — Travione Cobbins, 24, and Ricardo Robles, 23 — were hurt in the crash.
Antonio Valencia was on his lunch break around 2 a.m. when he encountered the wreckage at South Vineland and Muller roads.
“It was pitch black, so I came to a stop sign and from the corner of my eye, I thought it was just a cop just sitting in the dark and then when I made the left turn, I realized that the cop car was smoking and it was crushed,” Valencia said.
He immediately pulled over.
“As soon as I pulled over, the driver came out the window and was asking for help,” he said.
When he saw the vehicles, he first noticed the police car.
“The front end was crashed in and driver side like if they got T-boned,” he said.
Then he noticed the Honda accord but didn’t see the people inside.
Valencia then called 911, alerting emergency response of the crash. But, when officers arrived, Valencia claims they went straight to the police.
“The first people I seen them take were the cops, but I know that they were trying to work and get the other people out of the car because it was upside down,” said Valencia.
Attorney Daniel Rodriguez, representing the family of Mario Lares, says that was a poor decision on behalf of the police.
“They’re supposed to protect and serve, especially when one of their own seems to have violated the law and they should have gone and tried to help the victims,” Rodriguez said. “In this case, the police officers were not the victims.”
A big question in this crash has been if the cops involved had their lights and sirens on leading up to the impact.
One question that has not been answered by investigators was whether the police officers used their lights and sirens on at the time of the crash. Valencia told 17 News, the officers did not.
“No nothing was on … If I never took the double look, I would have just drove right past thinking it was just the cop sitting at the stop light waiting for someone to run it,” Valencia said.
Valencia said he is grateful he was there that morning and he believes the outcome could have been different for all.
“If I just drove past it, they could have all died.”
17 News has reached out to both the Bakersfield Police Department and California Highway Patrol continuously for a month seeking answers and received no response to questions about the ongoing investigation.