Court records: Officer speeding in fatal crash

Courtesy photo Edith Payton, 40, was driving her pickup with passenger Mary Castillo, 56 at the time of the accident.

Sharna Johnson

A Clovis police officer was driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit and accelerating when his car crashed into a pickup truck, killing one woman and injuring another, court records show.

The last thing Officer Stephen Gallegos said he remembered before the crash was seeing Christmas lights on a house, the records show.

Police have said Gallegos, eastbound on Grand Avenue on Nov. 17, failed to stop at the marked intersection with Sycamore Street. The police car smashed into a pickup northbound on Sycamore and driven by Edith Payton, 40, of Clovis.

Mary Castillo, 56, died the following day from injuries sustained in the crash.

Payton was critically injured but has since been released from a Lubbock hospital.

Gallegos has not been cited and is restricted to office duty, Police Chief Steve Sanders said Tuesday.

Payton, the driver of the truck, was giving Castillo a ride home from work the night of the crash, Castillo’s family members said.

In search warrant affidavits filed Friday in the 9th Judicial District Court, officers detailed tests run on the airbag control module from Gallegos’ unit.

Data from the module showed four seconds prior to the crash Gallegos’ vehicle was slowing from 58 mph and had reached a speed of 53 mph, but his throttle had increased by 8 percent one second before impact, the affidavit said.

In the one second before the crash his speed was documented at 56 mph, according to records.

Castillo’s sister Tita Romero said she didn’t know what to think before learning crash details Tuesday afternoon.

“I think he needs to be charged with vehicular homicide, because you know what, he was going a fast speed. We lost my sister because of this,” Romero said, breaking into tears.

“He’s still working and everything and getting paid for still doing his job for something he did to my sister. I just feel he needs to get charged with it.”

Romero said while family had speculated the officer’s unit was speeding, she was surprised to learn how fast he was going.

According to crash reconstruction performed by police, Payton’s vehicle was traveling 38 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The affidavit shows while Gallegos’ in-unit camera only captured 16 seconds of video and audio after the crash, they were able to obtain full footage of the crash from a camera located at the Elk’s Lodge at the intersection.

The five search warrants were served Friday at Plains Regional Medical Center and the Clovis Fire Department for medical records of the three involved in the crash.

Sanders said one other search warrant has been issued in the case for Gallegos’ cell phone records.

Gallegos, who said he never saw the truck as he approached the intersection, told police he wasn’t on his cell phone at the time of the crash, court records show.

Gallegos said the last speed he remembered traveling was 45 mph near the house with the Christmas lights and couldn’t account for his speed at the time of the crash or the reason for the increase in throttle right before impact, according to the affidavit.

Officers noted in the affidavit while there was no smell or observed indication of alcohol use, they wanted to obtain medical records to document injuries in the crash and to rule out any medications given to those involved by medical responders, which may show up in blood tests performed the following day.

Sanders said a determination in the case is pending completion of the investigation, including receipt of cell phone records, autopsy and laboratory results.