The California Highway Patrol insists there is nothing to claims that a Stockton man’s motorcycle death might have been caused by a CHP patrol officer. At the same time, there are a lot of questions surrounding the circumstances of the death and the victim’s family says authorities haven’t been very transparent in sharing whatever they know.
Not surprisingly, the relatives are upset. There is no apparent wrongful death claim being made at this point, but that could come. A lot may depend on the results of the official investigation. In situations such as this, the time to be speaking with an attorney would be now.
At issue is the death of 37-year-old Angel Sauceda. The family says it has spoken with a man who claims to have witnessed what happened. He reportedly has said that a CHP patrol car bumped Sauceda’s motorcycle during chase on the night of March 24. That caused Sauceda to lose control and to crash into a wrought-iron fence.
The witness purportedly also says that an officer mistreated the injured rider, slamming his body to the ground and standing on his neck. The man apparently is now afraid of police retaliation and is refusing to come forward.
The CHP says none of that happened. It says events of the tragedy started when a patrol observed Sauceda run a red light. That led to a pursuit. The report says Sauceda lost control of his vehicle, hit a curb and struck the fence. Injured, but alive, Sauceda was taken to the hospital where he died 48 minutes later. A CHP spokesman says no other details are available pending a full investigation.
Questions that the family is asking include: Why wasn’t either Sauceda’s wife or mother allowed to see Sauceda’s body at the hospital? Why weren’t either of them contacted by the coroner’s office to formally identify the body?
Another odd thing about the case is that under similar circumstances, a news release would usually have been issued by the CHP. But the officer responsible for doing that says he didn’t get called and only learned about the fatality when a newspaper reported called with questions.
The full probe could take up to 12 weeks to complete. In the meantime, family members say they intend to press for clear answers about what happened.
Source: The Record, “More questions raised in fatal crash,” Joe Goldeen, April 2, 2014