Commentary: Is Sacramento Law Enforcement Ever Held Accountable For Fatal Traffic Collisions?

CHP investigating on Interstate 5 near Sutterville Road where a Sacramento detective hit and killed two men on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. (Courtesy of KCRA 3)

by Robert J. Hansen

Sacramento, CA – Since September 2021 four Saramentans have been senselessly killed by homeless people, during the same period Sacramento law enforcement has killed the same number of people in traffic collisions alone.

When the average citizen accidentally kills somebody because of a traffic collision, they are almost always charged with at least vehicular manslaughter and arrested.

Sacramento law enforcement officers, on the other hand, seemingly are allowed to kill people with their vehicles.

Sacramento police detective Jonathan Thomas Nangle hit and killed two brothers on the freeway earlier this week on southbound Interstate 5 near Sutterville Road, according to police.

Juan Carlos Enriquez Rodriguez of Sacramento and his brother Lionel were pulled over to the side of the road because one of them ran out of gas.

While they were putting gas in the vehicle, Nangle crossed the solid white line and hit them both, according to police.

One was pronounced dead at the scene and the other later at the hospital.

Nangle has not been booked into the main jail for manslaughter or a similar charge as you or I would have been.

We’d be sitting there at this very moment.

If police are not even held accountable for killing people with their vehicles then how will police be held accountable for the next unarmed person they shoot and kill?

This is the second time Detective Nangle has crashed while on duty. In April 2021 the detective crashed into a woman’s vehicle which cost the City $15,500 to settle the case, according to court documents.

The woman luckily survived. Nangle went back to work after “clearly” learning from his mistakes.

The death of the two brothers came only five weeks after another deadly crash involving a Sacramento police officer who, like Nangle, hasn’t been arrested.

On Oct. 31, a Sacramento police officer, whose identity was never released, crashed into and killed 61-year-old motorcyclist Denzil Ollen Broadhurst.

The initial statement from police said a motorcyclist died “following a collision with a Sacramento police officer’s patrol vehicle.”

“Following a collision,” appears to be the preferred choice of words when police officers hit another vehicle. If a driver runs into a police officer’s vehicle, it is clearly stated that way.

After October’s fatal collision, Sacramento police told local news outlets they would conduct an internal administrative review and sent the findings to the Sacramento County district attorney to decide whether criminal charges should be filed.

To date, no charges have been filed.

Rather than placing either officer on so much as leave, let alone under arrest, the police department released a statement via Twitter.

“As a department, any incident involving our officers that results in serious injury or death is thoroughly reviewed at multiple levels. Specific to vehicle collisions, an accident review committee routinely reviews the facts of officer-involved collisions for policy violations, training, and safety issues,” police claim. “We recognize the tragic nature of these types of incidents and the impact they have on the involved parties as well as the community. We remain committed to fully cooperating with this investigation as it moves forward.”

A Riverbank man was arrested in September on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter related to a crash that killed a 16-year-old passenger.

Daniel Madsen, 21, told investigators he believed he fell asleep at the wheel and toxicology results showed no indication of drug or alcohol use, the Modesto Bee reported.

Madsen was arrested and didn’t even hit another driver or a pedestrian. From a passenger dying.

When the Rialto planning commissioner was killed in August after her car was struck by an SUV, the driver of the SUV was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, according to the San Bernardino County jail log.

Yet, when a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy driving northbound on Franklin Boulevard in a patrol car hits and kills a pedestrian, Rickey Epps, there is no accountability.

The Sheriff’s Office even claimed that witnesses told investigators Epps was standing in the middle of the road in Elk Grove that night with his back to oncoming traffic.

The Sheriff can paint a version of events as favorable to his deputies as he likes, but anyone else who kills another motorist or pedestrian gets arrested and usually convicted.

These officers and the deputy not being held accountable in ordinary situations where the average citizen is held criminally responsible illustrates how far our society has yet to go in holding law enforcement accountable in extraordinary situations where they use lethal force.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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