The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $5 million settlement Tuesday in the case of a sheriff’s deputy whose patrol vehicle crashed and killed two boys, 7 and 9 years old, on a sidewalk in Boyle Heights in 2017.
The vote was made without comment by the board.
Deputy Carrie Robles-Placencia, a patrol trainee with an 11-year veteran by her side, was responding to a call involving a shooting when she hit the two brothers, who were walking home from school with their mother, according to a charge evaluation worksheet provided by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The patrol vehicle, a 2015 Ford Explorer SUV, had its emergency lights on as it was driven through a red light at the intersection of Indiana Street and Whittier Boulevard at around 7:25 p.m. Nov. 16, 2017, and was traveling about 14 mph when a Honda Accord collided with it and then spun and hit another stopped car.
The SUV accelerated to about 22 mph after colliding with the Accord, and the driver swerved to avoid some pedestrians as the vehicle jumped a curb, according to the worksheet. However, the SUV struck the family and two other pedestrians, along with a trash bin that crashed into someone else.
Jose Hernandez, 7, died at the scene and his 9-year-old brother, Marco, suffered fatal injuries. Their mother, Veronica Solis, had a crushed pelvis and other broken bones and six other people were injured.
Traffic investigators concluded the accident was due to Robles-Placencia going through the red light without both lights and a siren to alert pedestrians and other vehicles to yield way, calling her action “without due regard for the safety of all persons on the highway.”
Prosecutors declined in November 2018 to file criminal charges against the deputy, saying more was necessary to prove even misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
“The People would be required to prove that Robles-Placencia’s actions, under the circumstances, amounted to criminal negligence or ordinary negligence and that sounding her siren was reasonably necessary under the circumstances,” the District Attorney’s Office concluded at that time.
When the deputy saw a Metro bus come to a stop in response to her flashing lights, she proceeded through the intersection at a slow rate of speed. A defense lawyer could argue it was simply a mistake of judgment not to realize that another vehicle coming alongside the bus might not stop, rather than negligence, the summary stated.
The document also stated, “It is almost inconceivable that Robles chose to accelerate and drive onto the sidewalk willfully.”
She may have believed she was hitting the brakes and was horrified to realize the SUV was speeding up, the summary said.
The boy’s mother and other plaintiffs filed suit against the county and the deputy, alleging that Robles-Placencia had acted recklessly and was not trained properly.
County lawyers filed a letter asking the board to authorize the $5 million settlement, but provided no information beyond the case title, number and the following description: This lawsuit arises from a multiple-fatality vehicle accident involving an on-duty sheriff’s deputy.
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