Relatives of a Covina couple killed during a police pursuit sued two cities and the state Wednesday, alleging the negligent actions of three police agencies and the driver they were trying to pull over led to the deaths.
The plaintiffs are all family members of Edward Louie Contreras and Gracie Contreras. The 55-year-old Contreras and his wife, 53, had recently married and were headed home with Gracie’s son on Oct. 12, 2019, when Salvador Gomez, allegedly fleeing police in a stolen Jeep, and the pursuing officers ran a red light and crashed into the victims’ vehicle at Glendora and Cameron avenues in West Covina.
All three were ejected. The woman’s son, now 14 years old, survived and is one of the plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, which names as defendants Gomez, the cities of West Covina and Baldwin Park and the state, which has jurisdiction over the California Highway Patrol.
The suit alleges wrongful death and motor vehicle negligence. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages.
The city attorneys for West Covina and Baldwin Park did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
About 9 p.m. Oct. 11, Gomez, using a knife, forcefully obtained a woman’s Jeep in Baldwin Park, the suit states. Police were alerted and the Jeep was seen heading toward West Covina, according to the suit.
The woman’s cellphone, which had a GPS system, was left in the Jeep, the suit states. The Jeep was seen about 2 a.m. Oct. 12, but instead of continuing to track Gomez and avoid a pursuit, the police agencies demanded he pull over even though he posed no threat to anyone and there was no emergency, according to the suit.
“This caused Gomez to panic, refuse to obey the request and proceed to speed away,” the suit states.
Gomez and the pursuing officers, after running a red light, all crashed into the car containing the couple and the woman’s son, the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs believe that none of the police cars had their emergency lights on or their sirens active, the suit states.
The collision caused injuries to Edward Contreras’ spine and neck and he later died, the suit states. Gracie Contreras suffered injuries to her abdomen that also proved fatal, the suit states.
The woman’s son sustained “massive” injuries from the collision and had multiple surgeries at a hospital, where he was placed in a coma for weeks, the suit states. He will spend the rest of his life recovering from his injuries, according to the suit.
The collision occurred due to the “grossly negligent, wanton and reckless conduct” of Gomez and the police officers, the suit states.