Police chief says protocol followed in fatal crash

By Gary Mitchell

By Gary Mitchell
CNJ SENIOR WRITER
gary_mitchell@link.freedom.com
The driver of the pickup involved in Friday’s deadly holiday crash appeared to be looking for a place to pull over just moments before he sped away from police and crashed into numerous vehicles, according to a report filed by Officer Rodney Wallace.
Joe Martinez Jr., 32, of Clovis, was arraigned Monday and charged with vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm or death and several misdemeanor charges.
Martinez is accused of trying to elude police and causing the death of a 39-year-old pedestrian, Bobbie Lynn Sandoval.
Wallace wrote in his report that he observed the rear wheels of Martinez’s pickup “turning/spinning at a high rate of speed” and “the tires were squealing loudly and there was a thick cloud of smoke coming from them.” He attempted to pull over Martinez for exhibition of speed, a traffic violation.
“The surrounding traffic was extremely heavy and there were numerous pedestrians in the area,” Wallace wrote in his report. “This was due to the Fourth of July fireworks display at (Greene) Acres Park having just ended. The pickup drove slowly south on Thornton as if the driver was looking for a safe place to pull over.”
After a block and a half distance, the officer said he “sounded a short burst of my siren to ensure the driver of the pickup was aware of my presence. I continued to follow the pickup with my emergency lights engaged.”
When Martinez turned on 18th Street, his pickup clipped a blue-and-white pickup and sped down the street “at a high rate of speed,” according to the police report.
The officer reported into dispatch, and then “engaged the emergency siren of my patrol unit to alert the public.”
Police involvement in the crash has been closely scrutinized by those who knew the victim and by the suspect’s family.
Clovis police officials said Monday that Wallace followed proper procedure in efforts to make the traffic stop.
“If we see someone breaking the law, we make the determination to pull them over,” Police Chief Bill Carey said. “He followed the procedures correctly. He tried to make a traffic stop. It says in the report he engaged his siren to alert the public. The proper procedure for traffic enforcement was followed.”
Wallace could not be reached Monday night for comment.