By Jack King: CNJ STAFF WRITER
The family of a Clovis woman who died July 4 in a vehicle pursuit involving police has filed suit against the city and a Clovis police officer.
A civil complaint, filed last month in 9th Judicial District Court by the estate of Bobbie Lynn Sandoval, charges the city and Police Officer Rodney Wallace were negligent in failing to adequately warn by-standers, including Sandoval, of impending danger during the chase, leading to her death.
The family seeks compensatory damages for pain, suffering and lost earnings and up to 10 percent interest on the judgment, said Portales attorney Eric Dixon, who represents them.
Dixon said he plans to ask the court for $750,000, the limit under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.
The complaint states the police vehicle driven by Wallace failed to use its siren on a continuing basis as it raced after the pickup, allegedly driven by Joe Martinez, who was fleeing police.
The police vehicle followed the pickup too closely and there was no need to chase the truck so fast when no felony had been committed, it said.
Wallace no longer works for the Clovis Police Department and could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
In his report of the incident, Wallace said he witnessed a pickup commit a traffic offense and attempted to pull over the driver. Wallace said he followed the pickup slowly for several blocks, then witnessed it crash into another pickup and speed away down 18th Street. In the report, Wallace said he turned on his sirens to warn the public and stopped to check for injuries before following.
The lawsuit claims the city was negligent in controlling traffic and crowds in the vicinity of Greene Acres lake and 18th Street should have been barricaded by the city to prevent traffic from entering the highly congested area.
Wallace was negligent, reckless and showed willful and wanton disregard for the Sandovals’ rights and safety, the complaint said. His actions are the “proximate result” of the city’s failure to adequately train and supervise its police officers, it said.
“State law requires the city to have specific policies in place regarding pursuit. The city didn’t have those policies in place on the day of the accident. As a result my clients are left without a mother and the city should be held responsible,” Dixon said.
City Manager Raymond Mondragon said he couldn’t comment on the case, because, as a matter of policy, city officials don’t comment on pending or threatened litigation.
City Attorney David Richards said attorney Virginia Anderman, of the Albuquerque firm of Miller Stratvert, has been retained to represent the city in the case.
Anderman did not return a call requesting comment on Tuesday.