Sher­iff ’s car in fa­tal crash didn’t have its siren on

Of­fi­cials pro­vide more de­tails about ac­ci­dent in Boyle Heights that left two boys dead.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Ruben Vives

In Boyle Heights last Novem­ber, a Los Angeles County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment sport-util­ity ve­hi­cle was re­spond­ing to a ra­dio call of a shoot­ing when it smashed into a car at a busy in­ter­sec­tion and jumped the side­walk, hit­ting pedes­tri­ans and killing two boys.

Since then, ques­tions have lin­gered about how fast the sher­iff ’s ve­hi­cle was go­ing and whether the emer­gency lights and siren were on at the time.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fa­tal crash of Nov. 16 is on­go­ing, but de­tec­tives with the Los Angeles Po­lice De­part­ment’s Multi-Dis­ci­pline Col­li­sion In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team have pro­vided more de­tails about the deadly ac­ci­dent.

LAPD Det. Chris Ro­driguez said the sher­iff ’s pa­trol ve­hi­cle was trav­el­ing less than 25 mph when it crossed the in­ter­sec­tion of In­di­ana Street and Whit­tier Boule­vard. The ve­hi­cle had its lights on but not its siren.

“No audi­ble sounds were made by the emer­gency equip­ment of the po­lice car,” Ro­driguez said.

As it headed south on In­di­ana Street, the sher­iff’s pa­trol ve­hi­cle crashed into a 1998 Honda Ac­cord go­ing east on Whit­tier Boule­vard. The im­pact caused the Ac­cord to hit a 2002 Honda Odyssey van that was car­ry­ing two women and five chil­dren. The van was stopped at a red light in the north­bound lanes of In­di­ana Street.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the sher­iff ’s SUV drove up a curb ramp, ca­reened off the wall of a Wells Fargo bank build­ing and struck pedes­tri­ans on the side­walk, in­clud­ing a woman and her two sons.

Video recorded by a se­cu­rity cam­era at the Green Mill Liquor store showed what hap­pened after the SUV struck the pedes­tri­ans. The short clip showed the front of the SUV — with its emer­gency lights on — hit­ting a trash can. A per­son rolled into the frame on the side­walk.

Seven-year-old Jose Luis Her­nan­dez was pro­nounced dead at the scene. His older brother, 9-year-old Mar­cos An­to­nio Her­nan­dez, was de­clared dead at L.A. Coun­tyUSC Med­i­cal Center, Ro­driguez said.

The mother and rel­a­tives of the two boys could not be reached for com­ment for

this ar­ti­cle.

Ed Obayashi, a vet­eran pro­fes­sional stan­dards ex­pert and Inyo County deputy, said that when it comes to new pa­trol deputies, their train­ing su­per­vi­sor is re­spon­si­ble for guid­ing them.

“The ques­tion here is, what kind of di­rec­tion did the su­per­vi­sor give to trainees about the lights and siren?” Obayashi said.

Crashes in­volv­ing po­lice ve­hi­cles hap­pen all the time, but rarely do they re­sult in such se­ri­ous and fa­tal in­juries, he said.

Cal­i­for­nia laws give of­fi­cers con­sid­er­able im­mu­nity when it comes to re­spond­ing to se­ri­ous crime re­sponses. But in civil law­suits, depart­ments com­monly pay con­sid­er­able sums to those in­jured dur­ing a re­sponse or pur­suit, he added.

In a state­ment on the fam­ily’s page on the Go­FundMe website, Jessa Ramos said her broth­ers were ea­ger learn­ers. They loved read­ing and draw­ing.

“They were both great stu­dents and used to fight for who was get­ting dropped off first at school,” she wrote.

She said the ac­ci­dent had left her mother in crit­i­cal con­di­tion with a head in­jury and hip, neck, leg and nose frac­tures.

In all, 17 peo­ple were in­volved in the three-ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent.

At least one per­son, a woman who was a month preg­nant at the time, was hit by both the Ac­cord and the sher­iff’s SUV as she was cross­ing the in­ter­sec­tion. Her fe­tus was not harmed, Ro­driguez said.

At­tor­neys for some of the vic­tims de­clined to com­ment or could not be reached for com­ment. Rel­a­tives of the two boys who were killed also could not be reached for com­ment.

Ro­driguez said that at the time of the crash, the sher­iff’s pa­trol ve­hi­cle was be­ing driven by a 30-year-old trainee deputy, with her 39year-old field train­ing of­fi­cer in the pas­sen­ger seat.

“She was on the job for two or three years and was start­ing the pa­trol as­pect of her ca­reer,” he said.

Ro­driguez said it would be up to the Sher­iff’s De­part­ment to re­lease the names of the deputies. The agency has not re­sponded to The Times’ pub­lic records re­quest seek­ing their names.

A day after the fa­tal crash, the Sher­iff’s De­part­ment re­leased a state­ment and ex­pressed its con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the crash vic­tims.

“The LASD and its per­son­nel are heav­ily im­pacted any time an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing our re­sponse to an emer­gency, or ef­forts to help oth­ers in need, re­sults in in­jury or the loss of life,” the state­ment read.

That same day, Julie Valle, 34, a res­i­dent of Boyle Heights, told The Times she was stand­ing in the front park­ing lot of Steven­son Mid­dle School with her two chil­dren, her dog and a rel­a­tive when she saw the sher­iff ’s pa­trol ve­hi­cle speed­ing south on In­di­ana Street, with no siren or emer­gency lights.

Valle said she watched as the ve­hi­cle ap­proached Whit­tier Boule­vard.

“The light was red on their end,” she said. “They did a Cal­i­for­nia roll and turned on the lights at the in­ter­sec­tion and then hit a car.”

She said she ran down from the school to the in­ter­sec­tion, where she helped an in­jured woman.

“She was try­ing to get up,” Valle said. “I told her don’t move, you were just in­volved in a car ac­ci­dent.”

Then, Valle said, she took in the car­nage.

“All I see is lit­tle legs. Then I see a boy, and that’s when I start to get the full pic­ture.”

The man­gled body of one boy lay near an­other. Their mother, she learned, was bleed­ing from the head.

Hec­tor Lopez also told The Times that day that he was walk­ing out of a store near the in­ter­sec­tion when he heard a ve­hi­cle speed up. Within sec­onds he heard the sound of cars col­lid­ing and saw some­thing fly through the air, pos­si­bly a bumper from one of the ve­hi­cles. Lopez said he did not hear any sirens be­fore the wreck.

“You’re sup­posed to turn on your lights, sirens and check be­fore tak­ing off,” Lopez said, adding that the fam­ily de­served “jus­tice.”

Ro­driguez said the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be sub­mit­ted to the Los Angeles County district at­tor­ney’s of­fice, which will de­ter­mine whether crim­i­nal charges will be filed.

On a re­cent Tues­day out­side the bank build­ing, a pile of dirty stuffed bears lay next to a bed of dry flow­ers. A bro­ken statue of Christ and some can­dles stood nearby. The memo­rial site, where a vigil was once held for the boys, is a daily re­minder about what hap­pened that day.

Lean­ing against the wall was a poster with a mes­sage from stu­dents of 32nd Street School-USC mag­net school, which one of the Her­nan­dez broth­ers at­tended.

“To the fam­i­lies in­volved, our deep­est love and sym­pa­thy with you,” the note read. “May God give you strength and courage to carry on.”

‘The ques­tion here is, what kind of di­rec­tion did the su­per­vi­sor give to trainees about the lights and siren?’ — Ed Obayashi, pro­fes­sional stan­dards ex­pert and Inyo County deputy

Ge­naro Molina Los Angeles Times

A GIRL at­tends a vigil in Boyle Heights for Jose Luis Her­nan­dez, 7, and his brother, Mar­cos An­to­nio Her­nan­dez, 9, who were killed by a sher­iff’s SUV Nov. 16.

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