By Janet Bresenham
A Clovis woman attending a family Fourth of July party was killed Friday night by a pickup truck fleeing police, Clovis police said.
The pickup was traveling east down the 500 block of West 18th Street, which was crowded with hundreds of people who had been watching the city fireworks show just moments before the crash.
Bobbie Lynn Sandoval, 39, was standing behind the camper shell of her family’s pickup when it was hit by the pickup fleeing police, witnesses said. Sandoval’s parked vehicle then slammed into another vehicle and she was thrown to the side.
She was taken by ambulance to Plains Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Sandoval, her husband Gary and two daughters, Kacie and Katarina, were visiting relatives for a daylong Independence Day family celebration that neighbors said was an annual event.
“I’m really good friends with these people,” said Ceki Marriott, who was having another family party next door. “We all know each other. Everyone saw everything. It was horrible. Everyone was scared to death. If that truck had kept going, it probably would have killed 50 people. There could have been a massacre on 18th Street, literally.”
The incident happened about 9:40 p.m. Friday.
The driver of the vehicle, Joe Martinez Jr., 32, was arrested and booked into the Curry County Adult Detention Center on third-degree felony charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm and eluding a police officer with a death involved. He also faces three misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of an accident and criminal trespass.
Clovis Police Sgt. Rich Johnson said Martinez initially complained of minor injuries and was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released into police custody.
Police said Martinez’s vehicle hit five parked vehicles and damaged eight before he stopped.
Neighbors said after the accident Martinez jumped out of his vehicle and ran down the block, jumped a fence, ran into the backyard of a corner house at 501 W. 18th St. and then entered the back of the residence. People inside the residence then held him until police arrived.
Sgt. Johnson said the incident began when Martinez fled from Clovis police officer Rodney Wallace. Johnson said Wallace reported that Martinez appeared to be speeding near 21st and Thornton streets.
“This all happened very, very quickly,” Johnson said. “The driver saw the officer and took off, then turned west onto 18th Street.”
Johnson said Officer Wallace turned and tried to follow the Martinez pickup.
Marty Martinez, who is not related to the suspect, was sitting on his front porch across the street from Marriott’s house when Joe Martinez Jr.’s truck appeared on West 18th Street. Marty Martinez estimated the truck was traveling 60 to 70 mph. The police car was driving slowly down the street several car lengths behind it and turned its lights on, Marty Martinez said.
“We heard a truck really rev up,” Marty Martinez said. “He just really punched it. You heard the roar of the engine. He gave that truck everything he had. I stood up and when I looked to my right, I could see the pickup about four or five houses down headed east at a very, very high rate of speed.”
Marty Martinez said he yelled for the truck to slow down, but the truck kept going and hit a parked car directly in front of it.
“The impact of the first car being hit was so loud, I stopped in my tracks,” Marty Martinez said.
Marriott said he and about 30 of his relatives and friends were facing another direction watching some small fireworks when the crash occurred.
“There was no warning,” Marriott said. “We felt like maybe there should have been sirens because a maniac was coming down the street. By the time I saw the police car’s lights, it was all over. It was just pandemonium.”
After the crash, Marty Martinez said he saw Sandoval lying on the ground and yelled for a police officer to call an ambulance.
“She was looking right at me,” he said. “I told her to hang on, everything’s gonna be all right.”
Johnson and Marriott said a licensed nurse who was attending one of the family parties rushed to help Sandoval before paramedics arrived.
Marriott said he still can’t believe Sandoval was killed.
“She was a fantastic lady,” Marriott said. “She was always the little mother hen, always taking care of everyone else. While everyone else was having fun at the party, she was the one going around making sure everyone was OK. It’s totally unfair.”
CNJ staff writer Eric Kluth contributed to this report.