BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An officer might face manslaughter charges in connection to a deadly crash on South Vineland and Muller roads that left one dead and three injured.
Documents obtained by 17 News give a first glimpse into the investigation by the California Highway Patrol, which is leading the investigation of the crash.
The court documents filed by the highway patrol state, “based on the circumstances of the collision,” “the driver of the Ford Taurus was in violation of penal code section 192-c-1,” also known as ” gross vehicular manslaughter.” Which requires proof that the driver acted with “gross negligence.” That Ford Taurus was a marked BPD car.
Two officers were in the car, but the Bakersfield Police Department and CHP refused to say who was driving the car.
Attorney Daniel Rodriguez, representing the family of one of the victims, Mario Lares, who was killed during the crash, shares that gross negligence is obvious.
“If he was going 70, 75 miles per hour, 80 or even more. That’s not just mere negligence or simple negligence. That’s gross negligence,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez shares that his investigation proves the officers never stopped at the stop sign the morning of the crash.
“Based on the skid marks and the preliminary information […] There’s no way it could have got to that speed from stopping and then accelerating. So that tells us, common sense tells us, they never stopped at the stop sign […] If it was you or I, with that kind of information or evidence against us, would there be any question that would be charged with vehicular manslaughter,” said Rodriguez.
Now it is up to the District Attorney to decide whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony.
“They have the ultimate say, the last word on the matter, not the CHP,” said Rodriguez.
However, he believes with the evidence, the choice is easy.
“The question becomes: Is he going to be treated, is this officer going to be treated like he’s above the law because he’s got a badge? Is he going to get a free pass? or is he going to be treated like you and I would be treated?” said Rodriguez.
BPD and CHP had no comment, saying the case is still under investigation.
However, an attorney of Chain, Cohn, Clark, the law firm representing the victim, Ana Hernandez, who was injured in the crash provided a statement in response to the documents.
The attorney said:
When police officers engage in pursuits, they expose innocent victims to serious injury or death. Sirens and flashing lights on a patrol car do not give police officers unfettered authority to drive on our streets without exercising due care for others on the roadway. Tragically, the incident that occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 19, 2023, resulted in the death of one innocent victim and life altering injuries to our client, Ana Maria Hernandez. We are aware of the California Highway Patrol warrant requesting a data download from the Bakersfield Police Department patrol vehicle. This request is consistent with the known facts of the case that the officer driving southbound on S. Vinland Road had a stop sign yet appeared to not stop.Tragedies like these should never happen and we will reserve judgment on any criminal charges that may be brought until such time as the CHP completes its investigation.Chain, Cohn, Clark