By Jackie Snyder and Lauren King
The Armando Gonzalez trial reconvened the morning of April 7, 2015. Several witnesses continued to be called to testify including: witnesses to a prior accident taking place in 2002 that Gonzalez was involved in after he suffered a seizure behind the wheel, a police officer dispatched to the 2002 accident, and police officers present at the scene of Gonzalez’s most recent vehicle accident, which resulted in the death of a woman.
Tiffany Faris, a witness of Gonzalez’s 2002 accident, was called to the stand to testify by Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor. Faris claimed that on the night of June 28, 2002, she witnesses a vehicle speeding past her and running a stop sign before crashing through a fence. Faris testified the incident took place at the end of College Street, where it Ts into Kentucky, coming to an end. Faris stated that the operator of the vehicle showed no evidence of halting at the quickly approaching stop sign. In fact, Faris claimed the vehicle made a noise similar to that of a vehicle that was accelerating. Once the car crashed through a fence and into, what Faris believed to be, an auto repair shop, she called the police department. She then left the scene.
An additional witness to the 2002 accident, Stan Cummings, was called next to testify. Cummings claimed that at approximately 11:30 pm on June 28, 2002, he witnessed a vehicle approaching a stop sign at a high rate of speed. The vehicle then went through the stop sign and continued straight through the intersection and in to a fence. Cummings testified he had been on his bicycle in front of Kentucky Market when the incident took place. He stated that he made his way over to the vehicle to check on the driver but stopped when he saw a man get out of the vehicle. The man, according to Cummings, appeared to look unfazed. Cummings testified he waited for the police to arrive and then gave a brief statement of what he had encountered.
The next witness called to testify was Officer Greg Moore. Officer Moore, who currently works as a Police Officer for the City of Elk Grove but was working for the City of Woodland Police Department in 2002, was dispatched to the intersection of N. College and Kentucky Ave on June 28, 2002. Officer Moore stated that, once on the scene, he saw a vehicle at rest in a parking lot, that appeared to have struck a fence in front of an auto shop business. Officer Moore testified that the vehicle, a blue Toyota Celica, had major damage to the front, most likely due to running into one of the three park cars involved in the accident. Officer Moore than testified he made contact with the operator of the car, Armando Gonzalez. Gonzalez told Officer Moore that he was coming home from his job at the Target warehouse, when he felt a seizure coming on, he then pulled over to the side of the road. Due to this incident Officer Moore stated that he issued a DMV priority re-examination for Gonzalez’s driver’s license. Officer Moore stated he did this only when a person had a physical defect, such as a seizure, behind the wheel of a vehicle. In Officer Moore’s 19-year career as a police officer, he only recalls two separate times where he issued a priority re-examination.
The next witness called to testify was Traffic Sergeant Rod Rifredi. Sergeant Rifredi, a police officer employed through city of Davis, testified that, although he was not working on February 1, 2014, he received a call out for service. Sergeant Rifredi stated he responded to the secondary collision that took place on East Covell and Pole line, before responding to the primary collision. He did this because he believed the primary would likely be crowded with emergency responders and other police officers. Sergeant Rifredi observed a white Toyota with heavy front end damage. Sergeant Rifredi believed the vehicle damage must have happened prior to the secondary accident because the other vehicle involved in the secondary accident had minimal bumper damage.
After tending to the secondary accident, Sergeant Rifredi then responded to the primary, located on E. Covell Blvd. and Baywood Ln. Here he observed a heavily damaged vehicle facing east, as well as a pole knocked down on the street. The operator of the vehicle had been transported to UC Davis Medical center, and when Sergeant Rifredi arrived at UC Davis Medical center to check on the status of the operator of the vehicle, he was notified she had passed away. Prior to the victim passing away, Gonzalez had been charged with a hit and run. However, in light of the new information he would then be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Sergeant Rifredi claimed that when he informed Gonzalez of his new charge, he appeared indifferent.
Joshua Helton testified next. Helton is a police officer employed through the city of Davis. He testified that he responded to the secondary accident taking place on February 1, 2014. Officer Helton was asked to evaluate the driver of the white Toyota, Gonzalez, for a DUI due to the fact he seemed confused. Officer Helton stated that Gonzalez was cooperative and seemed to understand him well. At no time did Gonzalez ask for an interpreter, otherwise, Helton stated, one would have been provided. Officer Helton asked Gonzalez several questions about what had taken place. Gonzalez claimed that he had left work early due to a headache and was driving home. He then stated he was tired and closed his eyes for about two minutes (while driving his vehicle). Gonzalez claimed that he felt a bump but had no recollection of hitting any other vehicles. When Gonzalez was asked if he were taking any medication, he stated he was taking medicine for epilepsy. Gonzalez claimed his epilepsy was well controlled and that he had taken his medication earlier that day. Officer Helton then proceeded to conduct several field sobriety tests on Gonzalez.
Officer Helton’s encounter with Gonzalez happened to be recorded via a camera on his vest. He had recently volunteered to wear the camera while at work as a means to test new equipment. The video was entered into evidence and played for the jury. However, before the conclusion of the video, court was dismissed for lunch. The jury was asked to return at 1:30pm so court could reconvene.
The hit and run trial involving Armando Gonzalez continued on the afternoon of April 7, 2015, at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse. Two witnesses were called to verify key details of two of Mr. Gonzalez’s motor vehicle accidents. The two accidents discussed during this session were the accidents that took place in 2004 and 2014. The prosecution called two police officers to the stand.
The first witness was Officer Marc Marquez. Mr. Marquez is a senior officer within the West Sacramento Police Department. The senior officer is trained in forensic mapping and was asked for assistance in diagramming the scene of the accident on February 1, 2014. The forensic mapping machine requires two officers for operation; one who positions the target and the other that operates the instrument. This machine allows law enforcement to accurately represent the scene of an incident. It diagrams the scene to scale and allows the original landscape to be preserved for further investigation.
On February 1, 2014, Mr. Marquez was off duty, but came to assist at the request of the Davis Police Department. The officer set up his equipment at the intersection of Covell Blvd. and Baywood Lane in Davis. Mr. Marquez explained the minute details of the instrument’s output diagram. According to this diagram, there were few skid marks on the road where the accident took place. This indicates that Mr. Gonzalez did not make attempts to stop his vehicle.
The second witness was a former police officer with the Williams Police Department and is currently employed as a farmer. In 2004, the witness was dispatched to the scene of a single vehicle collision with injuries. When the officer arrived at North St. and Virginia Way in Williams, the fire department and California Highway Patrol were already present. The vehicle had collided with a cement wall and was leaking fluids. The collision was described as quite severe and the front of the vehicle was smashed and had collapsed in about one to two feet.
The cement wall that had been hit was one of several walls enclosing part of the city’s septic system. The former officer saw Mr. Gonzalez in the driver’s seat and his legs appeared to be smashed inward toward his torso. It was difficult to see, however, due to the many paramedics attempting to care for the driver’s injuries. There was rubble beneath the cement wall that had not been present previously. The nature of the driver’s injuries were so severe that he had to be flown by helicopter to a Chico hospital. There were no skid marks at the scene and there was no indication that Mr. Gonzalez tried to stop at the intersection.
Court was adjourned for the afternoon and set to reconvene at 8:30am on April 8, 2015. Counsel predicts that the case will be given to the jury on Thursday morning for deliberation.