By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
A Clovis police detective involved in a pedestrian fatality while on duty last month has been officially cleared of any wrongdoing, according to a state police report made public last week.
Investigators determined the fatal injuries Delores Jacks, 71, received Dec. 12 when struck by a police car being driven by Lt. Roger Grah resulted from “pedestrian error,” and no charges will be issued in the case, according to the incident report.
“There has to be criminal negligence on his (Grah’s) part as driver; we did not determine any on his part,” New Mexico State Police Capt. Oscar Gonzales said.
“Lt. Grah had the right of way, pedestrians have to exercise due care as well,” he said.
Witness accounts placed the blame on Grah.
Kennedy Hodges told police: “If the driver had been paying attention and been in control of the car, the accident would not have happened,” he said in a Dec. 24 statement to police.
Arthur Daniels told police he was walking with Hodges down the street when Jacks was hit.
“There was no reason for the car to run this lady down. The car was clearly at fault for not having the car under control, and not having observed the lady and stopped,” Daniels said in a Dec. 26 police statement, records show.
Daniels and Hodges told Jacks to watch out for the oncoming vehicle, according to the report.
Gonzales said Jacks must have ignored these warnings.
“Witness statements show they tried to deliver a warning (to Jacks) and she ignored it,” Gonzales said.
Grah told investigators he was glancing off at the witnesses (Daniels and Hodges) when his vehicle struck Jacks.
“He was traveling north on Mitchell (Street) and saw the witnesses standing off the street to his left. He glanced at them as he approached and then he struck something,” the report shows.
After hitting Jacks, Grah got out of his car and called Clovis police dispatch to report the incident. He then talked to the witnesses, according to the report.
Michael Garrett, attorney for Jacks’ estate, said Jacks was in error, but so was Grah.
“I think there is pedestrian error there …(but) not total pedestrian error by a long shot. He (Grah) should have been looking at the road. Our position is she (Jacks) absolutely was out there, and he (Grah) should have seen her,” Garrett said.
Garrett is in the process of filing civil claims related to the incident, he said.
Jacks suffered extensive bodily damage in the accident: two broken legs, and a broken pelvis, rib and forearm, records show.
She was not resuscitated at the hospital at her previous request, according to the incident report, and this may have factored into her death, Gonzales said.
“The impact itself may not have been Jacks’ cause of death, because she denied resuscitation for religious reasons — that may have had a bearing as well,” Gonzales said.
The anti-lock brakes on Grah’s car worked effectively in later tests on the vehicle, though witnesses said Grah never hit his brakes until after striking Jacks, according to the report.
The speed limit on Mitchell Street is 30 mph, records show. Clovis police said Grah was traveling under the speed limit, according to the report. State police determined Grah’s speed was “not excessive,” Gonzales said.
However an independent reconstruction team found Grah was traveling at a rate of 34 mph, Garrett said.
Even if Grah were speeding, Gonzales said, it wouldn’t have factored into the official decision that Grah was not at fault.
“Lt. Grah had the right of way,” Gonzales said.
Grah chose not to comment.