Vehicular homicide incident may lead to lawsuit

By Darrell Todd Maurina

The city of Clovis faces a possible lawsuit in connection with a July 4 car crash that killed Bobbie Lynn Sandoval.
Sandoval died after being struck by a pickup truck driven by Joe Martinez Jr., who was fleeing a Clovis police officer.
Martinez, 32, is in the Curry County Adult Detention Center on a $50,000 cash bond on charges that include homicide by moving vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating beverage. According to police reports, Martinez crashed into eight cars shortly after the city’s fireworks display ended, and the last crash killed Sandoval by pinning her between two cars in the 500 block of 18th Street.
According to a notice of tort claim filed by Portales attorney Eric Dixon on behalf of Gary Sandoval and the estate of Bobbie Lynn Sandoval, the city and police department “were negligent in among other things failure to adequately warn by-standers, including Ms. Sandoval of impending dangers.”
Examples of the alleged negligence cited by Dixon included that the police car “failed to use its siren on a continuous basis as it raced after the pickup truck down 18th Street,” “followed the pickup too fast and too closely,” and that “there was no need for the police vehicle to chase the Martinez pickup so fast when no felony had been committed.”
Police have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in connection with the incident.
The notice also alleged the city was negligent in controlling traffic and crowds and that 18th Street “should have been barricaded by the city to prevent through traffic from coming into the highly congested residential area.”
A notice of tort claim is not a lawsuit but rather notification that a lawsuit may occur, and Dixon included a legal demand for the 911 tape of the July 4 call, dispatch logs and tapes of all communications during the incident, and any internal investigations, witness statements, and accident reconstruction investigations.
City Manager Roy Mondragon said his practice is not to comment on pending litigation and referred inquiries to City Attorney David Richards. Richards did not return calls to his office for comment.
Dixon said his client hasn’t yet made a decision on suing the city, but expects to make a decision before the end of the year.