On January 19th at 2:20:22 am, two officers from the Bakersfield Police Department were traveling southbound at a speed of 109 miles per hour on Vineland Road, between Wilson and Muller roads. Eleven seconds later, the patrol car, traveling at 78 miles per hour, violently collided with a westbound Honda Accord on Muller Road, causing the death of the driver and serious injuries to a passenger.
This information comes from the GPS tracker in the patrol car, according to attorney Daniel Rodríguez, who represents the victims' families in a lawsuit filed against the city of Bakersfield earlier this year.
"The BPD patrol car crashed into the passenger side of the Honda," Rodríguez said. "The impact was so strong that it split the car in two, ripped off a front wheel, and sent the car rolling multiple times into a third vineyard."
The photographs of the accident scene speak for themselves. Both cars were left as twisted piles of metal, with the Honda Accord resting on the driver's side as if a bomb had exploded underneath. The two officers in the patrol car somehow escaped serious injuries and managed to walk away.
According to a search warrant filed by the California Highway Patrol in February, the driving officer was speeding and ran a stop sign. Muller Road does not have a stop sign and has the right of way. The fact that the driving officer was going over 100 miles per hour is crucial.
"This raises the possibility of a criminal charge for the prosecutor's consideration," Rodríguez said. "It could change from a charge of vehicular manslaughter to second-degree murder. The law is very clear on this. So here is the officer's own statement, which is enough evidence to bring a charge of homicide."
The BPD is conducting an administrative investigation while a Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team from the CHP is focusing on the actual accident. Both agencies have remained silent about what happened on that fateful morning that led to a tragic incident in every sense. The BPD has not confirmed it, but it is presumed that the officers were heading to assist other officers who were pursuing an unrelated suspect who had allegedly stolen a car.
According to Rodríguez, the report also indicates that Officer Ricardo Robles, 23, was the driver of the car, but the report also mentions that the patrol car was driven by his partner, Travione Cobbins, 24. A DNA test was conducted on the patrol car's airbags to determine who was driving, but the results are still unknown. According to the BPD, Cobbins has returned to duty, but Robles is still on administrative leave.
Many questions remain unanswered, such as whether the officers had permission from their superiors to activate the emergency lights and siren. According to the attorney, " We have reason to believe that the overhead lights were not on, the siren was not on, and the headlights were not on, according to what witnesses in the area told us."
The innocent victims in this case are Mario Lares, 31, and Ana Hernández, 34, both from Bakersfield. They were heading home after working at nearby Grimmway Farms. Lares had recently gotten married and planned to start a family. A graduate of Foothill High School, he is described as a compassionate person who was giving his coworker a ride home when this unexpected tragedy occurred. Lares died at the scene of the accident, while Hernández suffered serious injuries.
"The doctors said Ana might never walk again, but we have good news! She is out of her wheelchair! The doctors say it's thanks to her optimistic attitude; she is working hard to get better," Rodríguez said.
Both the BPD and CHP have refused to comment on the report indicating that the officers were traveling at 109 miles per hour seconds before colliding with Lares and Hernández. The CHP has been investigating for eight months and has not yet issued a final report.
Originally posted at Abogados de Choques