On the afternoon of July 24, 2014, in Judge Paul Richardson’s courtroom, Armando Gonzalez’s preliminary hearing continued. The defendant sat in custody, and was accompanied by his attorney, Clemente Jimenez.
Defendant Armando Gonzalez is being charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and hit and run.
Allegedly, on February 1, 2014, the defendant hit a motor vehicle, resulting in the death of an 85-year-old woman. Gonzalez did not stop to aid the victim and instead proceeded to drive. Shortly after, he rear-ended another vehicle. The victims in this second collision did not sustain serious injuries.
Before the preliminary hearing began, Judge Richardson asked the bailiff to unshackle Mr. Gonzalez.
Shortly after, Officer Joshua Helton sat down to finish his testimony from the previous day, and DDA Kyle Hasapes began his interrogation.
Officer Helton stated that on the day of the accident, Mr. Gonzalez disclosed he had been suffering from epilepsy since the age of three.
Hasapes asked Mr. Helton if there was ever a language barrier during his interaction with the defendant.
“Not to my understanding. He understood the questions.”
“If you felt he didn’t understand you, would you have done something different?” DDA Hasapes asked. And Officer Helton responded, “Yes.”
Officer Helton further stated that initially Mr. Gonzalez admitted to being on two types of medications for epilepsy: Carbatrol and Tegretol. When Officer Helton asked Mr. Gonzalez a second time, he mentioned the medications, Keppra and Tegretol.
Upon further questioning by DDA Hasapes, Officer Helton stated he had the defendant take sobriety tests on the night of the incident.
“How about a walk and turn test?” queried DDA Hasapes.
Officer Helton declared that he demonstrated to Mr. Gonzalez how to do the test, and “he failed to perform the test as instructed.”
Next, defense attorney Clemente Jimenez stood for cross-examination.
“How long after the collision, did you arrive?”
“Fifteen to twenty minutes after… his speech was slow. He didn’t seem confused.” Officer Helton responded.
“Did my client indicate to you that he had previously been in an accident and that he had sustained injuries in his legs?”
During re-direct, DDA Hasapes told Officer Helton to refer to his report. Officer Helton stated that the defendant verbalized that prior to the collisions “his head hurt really badly, so that’s why he inadvertently closed his eyes.”
Judge Richardson then interjected shortly, “I have a couple of questions. You said, ‘inadvertently closed his eyes.’ Do you remember the language he used specifically?”
“No. I would have to refer to the video,” Officer Helton replied.
“Do you know at what point, in his continuum of driving, did he fall asleep?”
“No… He heard a bump but couldn’t explain what that bump was.”
The next witness, Officer Jesse Dacanay, walked up to the stand. At the time of the incident, Officer Dacanay had been a police officer with the city of Davis for seven years.
“I was paged in for a major collision… On Covell near Baywood… Then near Pole Line Road… I photographed the scene. The roadway had been closed down. There was a Chevy Impala resting east, wrapped around a tree… A variety of debris from what appeared as a white Toyota.”
DDA Amanda Zambor walked up to Officer Dacanay, and showed him People’s Exhibits 20 through 27. Officer Dacanay recognized all exhibits and gave short descriptions of each and every exhibit. The exhibits were photographs of the Impala facing southwest, the rear bumper of the Impala, the friction or paint transfer between the Impala and Toyota, the front bumper of the Toyota that was found in the debris field, and the front rail of the Toyota vehicle.
Next, Officer Dacanay stated that West Sacramento officers had mapped out the scene of the accident.
“The Impala was traveling West… A Toyota struck the Impala… The Toyota pushed the Impala from the rear…spinning the vehicle 180 degrees. The vehicle made contact with a tree and the vehicle came to a rest,” Officer Dacanay described.
As Officer Dacanay recollected, when he went to the second collision scene, only one vehicle was on the scene. The white Toyota was stopped on the lane and the parts missing on the vehicle were consistent with the other scene.
“Did you take statements from victims and witnesses?” DDA Zambor asked.
“I contacted Julie Mohr. She was the driver of the Jeep in the second collision site. She was struck from the rear to the middle of the intersection. She saw the other man looking at his car for damage.”
When DDA Zambor asked Officer Dacanay if the victim had given a description of the defendant, Mr. Dacanay stated that she had simply stated he was male. Knowing that Mr. Dacanay was mistaken, DDA Zambor asked the officer to refer to his police report.
“She described a Hispanic male, about thirty years old, and wearing a white shirt.”
Officer Dacanay also mentioned that Ms. Mohr had her daughter with her when the collision occurred. When asked the child’s age, Mr. Dacanay referred to his report, and stated she was twelve.
“I contacted Ms. Mohr at her house to identify the defendant in a photo lineup. I don’t recall if she was able to identify the defendant in the photo line-up.”
DDA Zambor then smiled at Officer Dacanay and asked, “Are you sure certain of the photo lineup?”
“I’m not…I apologize. I had an hour and a half of sleep.”
“And you were here yesterday,” DDA Zambor added.
“Yes, I was out in the hall.”
After looking at his reports once again, Officer Dacanay stood corrected. In fact, he had not contacted Ms. Mohr for a photo lineup; he had contacted the victim to photograph her Jeep.
“Did you help do a search warrant for the DMV records?” DDA Zambor inquired.
Officer Dacanay admitted that he had helped obtain the DMV records. From those records, he discovered that on August 24, 2007, the defendant had filled out a driver’s license renewal form. Where the checkbox asked if there had been prior suspensions, the defendant had marked “no.” Where the form asked if that person had a medical condition, the defendant had also marked “no.”
Moreover, Officer Dacanay had obtained an audio recording with a DMV interview. That audio was dated October of 2010.
On the recording, “did he indicate whether a doctor had told him not to drive?” DDA Zambor asked.
Mr. Gonzalez’s attorney, Mr. Jimenez, spoke out, “Hearsay. Was this obtained through subpoena?”
Judge Richardson then inquired, “Does it acknowledge who is speaking? Is it authenticated?”
“Did the defendant state his name in the beginning?” DDA Zambor asked Officer Dacanay.
“Yes…He said his doctor had not discussed not driving.”
“Who was the declarant on the DMV renewal form?” Judge Richardson asked.
“The defendant,” Officer Dacanay answered.
“What did the defendant say happened during the collision?” DDA Zambor continued.
“I’m sorry. I don’t recall.”
DDA Zambor asked Officer Dacanay to refer to reports.
“He indicated he had fallen asleep… not a seizure,” Officer Dacanay now recalled.
During cross-examination, Mr. Gonzalez’s attorney, Mr. Jimenez, gave Officer Dacanay a hypothetical example of two vehicles involved in a collision. Mr. Dacanay expressed that he did not understand the hypothetical example, and once again apologized for being tired.
“You have car one traveling at a certain velocity, it comes in contact with car two. Car one is going to slow down, correct?” Jimenez explained again.
“Yes,” Officer Dacanay declared.
After DDA Zambor asked Officer Dacanay one more question, Judge Richardson added, “Can this witness leave and get some much needed sleep?”
Officer Nick Doane walked in as the next witness. He disclosed that he had been a peace officer for nine years in the city of Davis.
Officer Doane had gone to Swift Dodge where Mr. Gonzalez had previously been employed.
A Mr. Riley had told Officer Doane that he would see Mr. Gonzalez “blanking out” at work. “He would stare off and not respond. He could wave his hand in front of the defendant and he wouldn’t respond.”
Officer Doane added that on February 1, 2014, the day of the incident, Mr. Gonzalez had mentioned to Mr. Riley that he had a headache and needed to go home from work.
“Would it refresh your memory to look at your notes,” DDA Zambor imparted.
“Mr. Gonzalez had stated that his stomach hurt,” Officer Doane corrected himself.
Mr. Doane then stated that he had obtained two search warrants for Gonzalez’s doctor’s records. Officer Doane had gone to the doctor’s home because his practice no longer existed. He said the first records he received were not a complete medical record. So, he went back with the second search warrant. According to Officer Doane, the doctor’s wife did not want to hand over the medical records willingly. She wanted him to pay for the medical records.
“I explained to her what a search warrant was. I specified I needed all records.”
Officer Doane then received all medical records.
Furthermore, Officer Doane testified that, at Swift Dodge, Mr. Gonzalez’s coworker had trained and worked with the defendant. This coworker had witnessed the defendant “blanking out.” And he never asked the defendant about these occurrences because “he didn’t want to get into his business.”
The defendant’s coworker had also told Officer Doane that he believed Mr. Gonzalez rode the bus to work, and he was not aware of any medical conditions.
DDA Zambor then told Officer Doane to refer to his report. “He had complained of headaches, but had never seen him have seizures.”
Officer Doane also declared that he had contacted a Mr. Kramer. He and the defendant had worked together on a daily basis. They worked together from November to February 1, 2014.
As stated by Officer Doane, Mr. Kramer had seen the defendant blanking out. During “blanking out” he would have a “1,000 yard stare.”
“Mr. Kramer believed they were seizures because he had done some research,” Officer Doane further commented.
“Objection. That’s speculation,” Mr. Jimenez proclaimed.
“Mr. Kramer said two episodes occurred early that day on February 1, 2014.”
“Did Mr. Kramer see Gonzalez come to and from work?” DDA Zambor asked.
Officer Doane told DDA Zambor that sometimes the defendant would come to work by bus, sometimes he would drive himself, and other times, his wife would drive him to work.
During cross-examination, Mr. Jimenez only had one question.
“Did anyone say he was not able to perform his duties as assigned?”
The last witness for the day, Officer Andrew Penrose, walked into the courtroom. He had been a Davis Police Officer for seventeen years.
Officer Penrose testified that he had interviewed a witness at the collision. According to the witness, the defendant, traveling in a Toyota, rear-ended the Jeep. “He said the car did not apply brakes or avoid the collision.”
Neither the defense nor the People had any further questions.
Armando Gonzalez’s preliminary hearing will continue on July 30, 2014, at 8:30 am in Department One. The preliminary hearing is expected to last the whole morning.