Officer on way to lunch before crash

Sharna Johnson

A Clovis police officer was on his way to lunch when he was involved in a fatal crash Nov. 17.

Officer Stephen Gallegos radioed dispatch at 9:38 p.m. to let them know he was done at the police department and to ask if he was clear to go to lunch, according to an audio recording of Gallegos’ radio transmissions released Friday by police.

“I was 10-98 (finished with assignment) from the 81 (station),” he told the dispatcher. “Am I clear to go 10-10 (on lunch)?”

The dispatcher affirmed Gallegos’ lunch break.

Two minutes later at 9:40 p.m., he again contacted dispatch from the crash scene — 16 blocks east of the police department — to say he was involved in a crash.

Gallegos then went off-air, not responding when the dispatcher made three more attempts to call him on the radio.

In his third attempt to reach Gallegos, the dispatcher asked, “135, are you 10-4 (OK)?” and began sending other officers to the intersection as 911 calls started coming in to report the crash.

Police said Gallegos, eastbound on Grand Avenue, ran a stop sign at Sycamore, colliding with a pickup truck driven by Edith Payton, 40.

Payton’s passenger, 56-year-old Mary Castillo, died the following day at a Lubbock hospital.

Payton, critically injured, has since been released from the hospital.

Gallegos wasn’t seriously injured in the crash.

Family members said Payton, driving north on Sycamore when the crash occurred, was giving Castillo a ride home from work.

Court records describing data collected by the airbag in his unit showed Gallegos was traveling at 58 mph four seconds before the crash, slowed to 53 then reached 56 mph one second before and was accelerating at the time of impact.

The speed limit along east Grand Avenue is 35 mph.

In the hour prior to the crash, Gallegos communicated with dispatch as he transported a prisoner to Plains Regional Medical Center, then took the prisoner back to the jail before going to the police department on Connelly Street to drop something off, according to the audio.

He spent approximately 17 minutes at the police department before leaving for lunch, transmissions show.

Gallegos has been restricted to office duty since the crash.

Saturday, Police Chief Steve Sanders said Gallegos remains on duty.

Confirming that 10-10 is code for lunch or break, Sanders declined to discuss the radio transmissions in detail.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said Saturday the radio logs have been reviewed as part of the investigation.

“We’ve evaluated them as well. That certainly was something that we were looking into to provide us a timeline of the officers whereabouts and actions leading up to the crash,” he said.

Chandler said it is still expected to take another two to three weeks to obtain Gallegos’ phone records and blood test results, “Which will assist us in the evaluation of the charges.”

He also said he spoke with Payton and lawyers representing Castillo’s family to keep them apprised.

Gallegos has not been charged in connection with the crash pending completion of the investigation, Chandler said.

Thursday, police denied a request from the Clovis News Journal for additional records, including video footage and the crash incident report, citing laws protecting records in an ongoing investigation or involving individuals accused but not charged with a crime.