ACLU report outlines civil rights violations in Kern County, highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles cases

November 15, 2017 | 9:31 am


The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has published a report following a two-year study that concludes law enforcement agencies in Kern County – specifically the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office – have engaged in patterns of excessive force and systematically violated the civil rights of local residents.

ACLU calls on the two departments to reform their policies, re-train and re-orient line and supervisory officers “towards a culture that emphasizes the consistent use of tactical alternatives to force and consequences for the use of unreasonable, unnecessary, or disproportionate force, and establish rigorous and independent oversight institutions to ensure the departments remain accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.

Many of the excessive force, civil rights, and wrongful death cases outlined in the report are and were represented by the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles. In response to the report, the law firm released the following statement.

“We are encouraged, but not surprised, that the ACLU has determined that both Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office have violated the rights of many individuals in this community. We have reached the same conclusion over the course of the many cases we’ve prosecuted against officers in both departments. In some cases, these officers have faced criminal prosecution, but in the vast majority they have not. In those cases where criminal prosecution is off the table, these departments vigorously defend the officers, find their conduct to be within policy, and instead direct their attention toward blaming the victims. We hope the Attorney General’s Office will take these findings into account as they continue to investigate both departments. The hope – at the end of the day – is that the Attorney General’s Office will take action against these departments that will spark institutional change and restore the community’s faith in law enforcement.”

Read the full report here.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is already carrying investigating patterns of excessive force and civil rights violations in the two departments. The reports and investigations follows a five-part series by The Guardian publication that found these Kern County departments killed people at a higher rate than any other U.S. agencies in 2015. The series uncovered a culture of violence, secrecy and corruption in the county’s two largest police departments. Among the cases highlighted were those involving wrongful death, police misconduct, sexual misconduct and civil rights cases handled by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files claim against City of Bakersfield on behalf of teenager beaten, falsely arrested by police

August 30, 2017 | 3:50 pm


Tatyana Hargrove, an African-American teenage victim of police brutality this summer in a case that received national attention, has filed a legal claim against the City of Bakersfield and its police officers.

Hargrove, her parents, and her attorneys from Chain | Cohn | Stiles hosted a press conference to discuss the claim, and excessive force case that has received national attention, and answered questions about how this experience has affected her and what she hopes to achieve through civil court.

Hargrove was riding her bicycle on June 18 in southwest Bakersfield in search of a Father’s Day gift when Bakersfield Police Department officers stopped and detained her at gunpoint. In the course of the encounter, Hargrove was punched and kneed in the face and bitten severely by a police dog. The police officers claimed they mistook her for a male suspect. Hargrove – who is 19 years old, 5-feet, 2-inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds – suffered major face and leg injuries, in addition to the obvious emotional trauma.

Police initially charged her with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, interfering with a peace officer’s animal, and resisting an executive officer. On Aug. 2, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against her. A video produced by the Bakersfield chapter of the NAACP regarding the incident has garnered nearly 8 million and attracted national media attention.

“What happened to Tatyana Hargrove is a serious injustice, but perhaps what is even more troubling is that this appears to be a pattern of conduct by the Bakersfield Police Department,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, who is representing Hargrove. “This case is not just about obtaining justice for Tatyana, but about confronting these wider problems.”

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INCIDENT / VIDEO MEDIA COVERAGE

INVESTIGATION / RALLY / BAKERSFIELD POLICE APOLOGY MEDIA COVERAGE

CHARGES DROPPED MEDIA COVERAGE

CLAIM FILED / PRESS CONFERENCE MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins Bakersfield Police in fight to end DUIs, distracted driving

November 23, 2016 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has been fighting to end drunk driving in Kern County, while also raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, and advocating for bicycle and pedestrian safety locally.

And with news that the Bakersfield Police Department was awarded a $415,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for a year-long program, in part, for these same causes, the streets of Bakersfield may be getting safer.

Recently, local media highlighted the new grant that will fund educational presentations, DUI checkpoints, bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement, distracted driving enforcement and seat belt child safety seat enforcement, and more.

“The Bakersfield Police Department is committed to ensuring traffic safety on city roadways,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson in a news release.

So, too, is the Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County.

In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles Director of Marketing and Public Relations Jorge Barrientos spoke with media about grant, and what it means for MADD Kern County. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a strong and active supporter of MADD Kern County, and deeply involved in the fight against drunk driving in our community. Barrientos serves as the planning committee chairman for MADD Kern County’s annual fundraising and awareness event. And attorneys Matt Clark and Neil Gehlawat are members of the MADD Kern County Advisory Board.

“Currently we are seeing about 12 DUI arrests per day,” Barrientos told Eyewitness News. “That’s more than 4,000 a year. And, that’s just the people that are getting caught … We do know for a fact that a lot of people that are getting caught have been caught before … It’s a 100 percent preventable crime. You don’t have to get behind the wheel after you have a drink.”

In all, the grant will help fund the following efforts:
  • Educational presentations
  • DUI checkpoints
  • DUI saturation patrols
  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement
  • Motorcycle safety enforcement
  • Distracted driving enforcement
  • Seat belt and child safety seat enforcement
  • Speed, red light, and stop sign enforcement
  • Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets,” identifying worst-of-the-worst DUI offenders
  • Specialized DUI and drugged driving training such as Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement, and Drug Recognition Evaluator
  • Court “sting” operations to cite individuals driving from DUI court after ignoring their license suspension or revocation
  • Stakeout operations to observe the “worst-of-the-worst” repeat DUI offender probationers with suspended or revoked driver licenses

In September this year, Kern County came together for the third Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K at the Park at River Walk, called for an end of drunk driving, and raised more than $62,000 in the process to fight against drinking and driving locally.

The 2016 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds to stop drunken driving locally, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunken driving crashes. Since 2014, the annual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K has raised more than $160,000.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently has also partnered with Bike Bakersfield, a local nonprofit bicycle advocacy group, to give out free safety helmets and bike safety lights.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a car accident, bicycle accident or pedestrian accident at the fault of someone else, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

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GRANT MEDIA COVERAGE

WALK LIKE MADD & MADD DASH 5K MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files civil rights lawsuit in police shooting that local paralyzed man

September 14, 2016 | 6:00 am


Editor’s Note: The following article was published in the May 20, 2016, edition of The Bakersfield Californian related to an excessive force lawsuit that was filed against the City of Bakersfield and two officers of the Bakersfield Police Department by the Civil Rights lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

 

Homeless man sues after police shooting

By Steven Mayer

The Bakersfield Californian

Adding to a long string of lawsuits being filed against local law enforcement, a 19-year-old man paralyzed from the waist down after being shot last year by a Bakersfield police officer who found him sleeping in his car is suing the officers involved and the City of Bakersfield.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno on Tuesday — exactly one year after the incident in question — claims the plaintiff, Gilberto Fajardo, “was asleep, unarmed, and did not pose a threat of death or serious bodily injury to anyone” on the evening of May 17, 2015, when he was approached in a church parking lot by Bakersfield Police Officers Lindy DeGeare and Juan Orozco.

“It’s very tragic,” said Fajardo’s attorney, Neil Gehlawat, of the Bakersfield law firm Chain Cohn Stiles. “We’re talking about a very young kid who is now paralyzed for the rest of his life.”

Fajardo was essentially homeless at the time. While he was often able to stay with siblings, that night he was left with only one option, sleeping in his car.

“He was there because he believed the safest place he could sleep was in a church parking lot,” Gehlawat said.

Bakersfield City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said Friday she was aware the lawsuit had been filed, but the city had not been served with it.

As soon as the city is served, the case will go to outside counsel, Gennaro said. She noted there will certainly be two sides to the story.

According to the timeline outlined in the complaint, the front driver’s-side window was rolled down about three inches when officers arrived at the church lot in the 600 block of Planz Road for a “check the welfare” call.

The complaint says Orozco and DeGeare began yelling profanities at the plaintiff, who awoke “startled and perplexed.”

Orozco broke off both the driver’s-side and passenger-side door handles, then “proceeded to bash in the front windshield of plaintiff’s vehicle after plaintiff turned on his vehicle,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit continues: “DeGeare then shot plaintiff multiple times while he was in the vehicle. One of her shots pierced plaintiff’s spine, causing him to become paralyzed instantly from the waist down.”

No longer in control of his body, the plaintiff’s foot collapsed on the accelerator, causing his vehicle to slam into a nearby van, it said.

According to the timeline, the two officers then dragged Fajardo from the vehicle and onto the pavement, jumped on him, kneed him and handcuffed him, causing further injuries.

The following July, a BPD Critical Incident Review Board cleared DeGeare in the shooting. She was returned to full duty.

According to a BPD investigation, the incident unfolded when DeGeare and Orozco came upon a vehicle backed into a parking stall surrounded by large vans on each side and across the parking access lane.

Fajardo was in the driver’s seat slumped over the steering wheel.

The vehicle was not running and the driver’s-side front window was lowered several inches, the BPD said.

There were no license plates on the vehicle; a license plate found in the dash returned to a different make and model vehicle, the department said. It was unclear if the vehicle was stolen.

Plaintiff’s attorneys say it was not, and Fajardo was not charged with auto theft.

According to the BPD’s timeline, officers woke Fajardo, identified themselves and asked him to step out of the vehicle.

“During their several minute conversation with Fajardo, the officers ordered him to exit the vehicle numerous times and he refused,” police said in a news release.

Fajardo rolled up his window, started the vehicle, revved the engine and rapidly accelerated out of the parking stall, police said.

DeGeare, who was on the driver’s side, lost sight of Orozco, who was on the passenger side, the BPD said.

“Believing her partner had been or was being run over, she fired her duty firearm at Fajardo, striking him,” police said in the release.

Fajardo hit a van that was parked across the parking access lane from where he was initially parked. Fajardo was taken to Kern Medical Center for treatment.

DeGeare and Orozco were not hurt. Adding insult to injury, Gehlawat said, Fajardo was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, the weapon being the vehicle.

Should he be convicted in criminal court, it could bar the civil case from moving forward, Gehlawat said. Should Fajardo be acquitted, it could open the possibility of a malicious prosecution claim.

 

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If you or someone you know has been a victim of police misconduct, excessive force or had your civil rights violated,  call the Bakersfield police misconduct lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

Recently, the civil rights lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a wrongful death, civil rights case that garnered international media attention. The case of David Sal Silva, in which he was beaten to death by law enforcement officers, settled for $3.4 million. Click here to learn more about this case.

— Compiled by Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles continues fight to end drunk driving in Kern County with MADD

September 2, 2015 | 3:13 pm


California Highway Patrol gave nearly 2,200 citations for driving under the influence in Bakersfield in 2014. CHP officers in Kern County in the same year also noted 312 collisions, 422 injuries, and 14 fatalities – all involving DUI.

They are statistics, arrests and tragedies that are 100 percent preventable – choices were made by people to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. That decision affected families and communities.

In an effort to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes, the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving will host its second Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Park at River Walk, 11200 Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield.

For the second year, the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is supporting MADD and the event, serving as sponsor and key partner in organizing the event. Earlier this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles marketing director Jorge Barrientos was named MADD California’s volunteer of the year for his work with MADD Kern County.

This second annual event follows the first-ever Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in which 700 people attended and raised more than $46,000 to fight against drunk driving locally. That event followed a tragic 2013 on Kern’s roadways in which more than 30 deaths and 600 injuries occurred at the hands of drunken drivers.

“The fight is not over,” said Carla Pearson, victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. “People are still making the choice to get behind the wheel after drinking, putting your life and their own life at risk. These are not accidents – they are 100 percent preventable crashes.”

The event ceremony will start at 7:30 a.m. and the race and walk will kick off starting at 8 a.m. In attendance will be surviving victims of drunken driving crashes and their families, supporters, law enforcement officers with their vehicles, a Kern County Fire Department engine and giant flag, A Life Interrupted display vehicle, an activities area for kids, advocates, and other community members rallying and running for the cause.

For more information and to register to participate, go to www.walklikemadd/bakersfield.

SPONSORS

The event is supported by local law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as sponsoring local companies. Sponsors include:

Local media is also supporting the cause and helping raise awareness. Media sponsors include:

Several other local groups are assisting MADD Kern County with donations and other assistance. They include:

MEDIA COVERAGE

Several local media agencies have partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness of the problems in Kern County, and support the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K. Stay tuned to this section for coverage of the event.

Bakersfield crashes involving law enforcement vehicles share similar stories

May 4, 2015 | 10:31 am


Late last week, a family of four was driving in southwest Bakersfield when a Bakersfield Police officer driving his cruiser at freeway speeds crashed into them head-on, family members told Eyewitness News.

The officer, they said, did not have his lights or sirens on. The officer suffered minor to moderate injuries while the family members also were injured, and some were taken to the hospital. Fortunately, no one died in the crash.

Family members told Eyewitness News they were trying to turn left onto Wilson Road, yielding to oncoming traffic, when the patrol car swerved into them. Bakersfield Police Department said it’s continuing its investigation.

The case is eerily familiar to two recent cases handled by the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles in which law enforcement officers driving at unsafe speeds have crashed with local residents. Unfortunately in those cases, fatalities occurred.

  • Last year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled a wrongful death lawsuit between the County of Kern and the families of two people killed by a speeding Kern County Sheriff’s deputy. That $8.8 million settlement is believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn represented Daniel Hiler’s fiancee and two young sons. The 24-year-old was struck and killed along with Chrystal Jolley, 30, in late 2011 by Kern County Sherriff’s Deputy John Swearengin. Both were crossing a road in Oildale when Swearengin’s patrol vehicle struck and killed them. Swearengin was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting Hiler and Jolley. He was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and sirens were not turned on. Law enforcement officers can travel in excess of the posted speed limit so long as their forward facing overhead lights are activated to warn others that they are responding to an emergency, but Swearengin didn’t do that, Cohn said. In fact, the deputy violated several policies and procedures. The Hiler family received $4.8 million from the settlement.
  • And in September last year, 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett was driving her vehicle at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale when she was struck and killed by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle. She had just returned to Bakersfield from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends. The California Highway Patrol’s MAIT Team is still conducting an investigation of the collision.

“Under nearly every circumstance, law enforcement officers driving department vehicles are bound to the same rules of the road as everyday citizens unless they’re operating with lights or sirens when it’s necessary,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “That certainly doesn’t appear to be what happened in this recent case.”

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident at the fault of someone else, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Celebrate the holidays without drinking and driving

December 9, 2014 | 9:28 am


The holidays, traveling and parties go hand in hand. But it’s important not to mix the three, unless you have a sober driver.

If you‘re celebrating with alcohol this holiday season, the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, along with Kern County law enforcement, reminds you to drive sober, or get pulled over.

Due to the increase locally in drunken driving-related crashes and fatalities, the Bakersfield Police Department will be out in full force from Dec. 12 to Jan. 5 actively searching for impaired drivers. The DUI task force also plans to place two DUI-driver‘s license checkpoints and eight local roving DUI Saturation Patrols, the department reported.

California Highway Patrol, too, will be out in full force. The Bakersfield-area CHP will deploy officers on enhanced enforcement on State Routes 43, 46, 58, 65, 99, 119, 155, 178, 184, 204 and 223, and jurisdictional unincorporated roadways in Kern County, the agency reported.

During the holiday season in 2012, 40 percent of the drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior DUI on their record, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During that same holiday period, 37 percent of the 21 to 24-year old drivers in fatal crashes were impaired. Almost one out of six drivers under the age of 21 in those fatal crashes was also drunk, even though they were too young to legally buy or consume alcohol.

Besides causing injury and harm to others on the harm, the consequences of drinking and driving include jail time, fines, loss of your driver’s license, towing fees, and other DUI expenses totaling $10,000 on average, not to mention humiliation drivers face among your family, friends and workplace.

The best way to avoid drinking and driving is to remain sober. But if you will celebrate with a few drinks, here are a few things you can do to stay safe:

  • When you know you’ll be drinking, leave your keys at home or give them to someone else.
  • Designate a sober driver ahead of time, or call a friend or family member.
  • Use public transportation or call a taxi, Uber or Lyft.
  • And if you see a drunk driver on the road, call 9-1-1. You could save a life.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, also reminds motorists that the most dangerous days of the year on our nation’s roadways are between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This season, MADD is asking drivers to Tie One On For Safety, which you can read about by clicking here.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is deeply involved with the Kern County chapter of MADD, sponsoring and organizing the second “Walk/Run Like MADD” 5K in Bakersfield on Sept. 19, 2015, at the Park at River Walk. The event is aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, and to raise funds for victims of DUI crashes. Learn more about the “Walk Like MADD” event by clicking here.

If you are involved in a car accident this holiday season due to the fault of a DUI-driver or another motorist, call the car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000. You can also visit our specialized Car Accident website by clicking here for more information.

CCS files lawsuit on behalf of family of jogger killed by driver who allegedly fell asleep

August 19, 2014 | 9:45 am


The Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has announced it has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Jesse Rios. You can see the news release and media coverage below.

Rios was struck and killed by a truck driver while on a morning jog. The driver allegedly fell asleep at the wheel and jumped the curb where Rios was jogging. The crash investigation is ongoing.

To view media coverage of this case, click on the articles and news stories below the news release.

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Aug. 19, 2014 – NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Bakersfield, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2014) – By all accounts, 26-year-old Jesse Rios was a loving brother, father and son who worked two full-time jobs to take care of his family.

The East High School graduate especially loved his 4-year-old daughter Isabella, and wanted to make sure she could get all medical treatment available for her epilepsy. Jesus and his wife Clarissa would make frequent trips to Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera.

On Tuesday, July 29, while taking a morning jog, Jesse Rios was struck and killed by a truck that ran onto the sidewalk at Westholme Boulevard and Wilson Road near the Rios’ home. The driver, Eliseo Soto, 29, was behind the wheel when he allegedly fell asleep. According to media reports, he had finished a 12-hour shift at West Coast Casing Company.

“I’m heartbroken,” Clarissa Rios said. “Jesse was not just my husband. He was my best friend, my partner, my everything. There is not a minute that goes by every day where I don’t think about him. When my daughter says she misses her daddy and asks when he’ll be home, it takes everything from within me to hold back my tears. I know that going forward we have to stand together and be strong for Jesse, and my hope is that by filing this lawsuit, we will obtain justice for him.”

The Bakersfield personal injury law firm, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against West Coast Casing Company on behalf of Jesse’s wife, his daughter and his mother for the loss of love, affection, society, service, comfort, support, right of support, expectations of future support and counseling, companionship, solace and mental support, as well as other benefits and assistance of Jesse Rios.

Matthew C. Clark, lead attorney for the family, added: “The death of Jesse Rios is a tragedy in every sense of the word. He was a devoted husband to his wife, a loving father to his daughter, and a loyal son to his mother. We know that filing this lawsuit will not bring Jesse back, but our hope is that it will hold wrongdoers accountable, bring a sense of closure to his family, and help compensate them for the unthinkable loss they have all suffered.”

The Rios family has requested privacy during this time. Bakersfield Police Department is continuing its investigation of the crash.

430 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 100 – Bakersfield, CA – 93301 – Phone: 661-323-4000

CHAIN | COHN | STILES is Kern County’s leading plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm, voted Bakersfield’s “Best Law Firm” in The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll the last two years in a row. Our Bakersfield personal injury attorneys have represented clients from throughout the San Joaquin Valley and California for 80 years. We concentrate our efforts on protecting the rights of individuals who have been seriously injured due to the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another. If you have been injured due to the fault of another, you have the right to hold that person or entity accountable, no matter how rich or powerful that person or entity may be. At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we pride ourselves on having the reputation and resources necessary to overcome the most difficult challenges while achieving the best possible results for our clients. For more information, go to chainlaw.com.

Find us on Facebook, Twitter (@chainlaw), Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Pintrest and Google+

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Jogger hit, killed near Castle Elementary School (KERO-23 ABC)

Pedestrian hit by truck on Wilson Road (Eyewitness News, KBAK-KBFX 29-58)

Police: Driver likely fell asleep before hitting, killing jogger (Eyewitness News, KBAK-KBFX 29-58)

Family mourns man killed while on morning run (Eyewitness News, KBAK-KBFX 29-58)

Local runners put on event for Jesus Rios’ family (Eyewitness News, KBAK-KBFX 29-58)

Police: Driver who hit runner, fell asleep at the wheel (KGET-17, NBC)

Family remembers pedestrian killed (KGET-17, NBC)

Local runners honor man hit, killed in southwest Bakersfield (KGET-17, NBC)

Pedestrian hit by truck on Wilson Road (The Bakersfield Californian)

Truck runs onto sidewalk, kills pedestrian (The Bakersfield Californian)

‘First Look’: First News for July 30 (The Bakersfield Californian)

Family of jogger hit and killed sues driver’s company (The Bakersfield Californian) (Newspaper link HERE)

Family of jogger killed in crash files lawsuit (Eyewitness News, KBAK-KBFX 29-58)

Law enforcement, local groups in full force this Fourth of July to prevent drunk driving

July 2, 2014 | 9:54 am


UPDATE: CCS Marketing Director and MADD Kern County board member Jorge Barrientos spoke with KERO-23 (ABC) News about driving sober and safe on the Fourth of July weekend. Watch the segment here.

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Fireworks, friends, flag-waving, food and family — those are usually the ingredients for a successful Fourth of July.

Many times, Independence Day festivities also include alcohol. The Bakersfield Police Department, MADD Kern County, and the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles are reminding Kern County residents to celebrate safely this year and always.

As Bakersfield Police states, the holidays can quickly turn from festive to fatal when people choose to drink and drive. In fact, during the Fourth of July holiday period in 2012, 78 people in the United States were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

To crack down on drunk driving locally, Bakersfield law enforcement will be having its Avoid the 18 DUI Task Force in full force. MADD Kern County, too, is sharing some tips and statistics to celebrate the Fourth safely. And the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also share some safety tips.

AVOID the 18

The Avoid the 18 DUI Task Force aggressively targets those who put lives in danger. That means every Kern County law enforcement agency is ramping enforcement this Fourth of July, according to Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson.

In short, those who drink and drive will be targeted for arrest in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which means zero tolerance for drunk driving.

The Task Force will also be deploying officers to DUI saturation patrols. The California Highway Patrol, for example, will be deploying all available officers onto freeways and county roads for its “Maximum Enforcement Period.”

The reason is because more than 10,000 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the United States in 2012, representing a third of all crash fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Fourth of July holiday period is especially deadly — there were 179 people killed in crashes in 2012, and 44 percent of those crashes were alcohol-related.

In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. According to FBI statistics, more than 1.28 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2012. Data also shows that 46 percent of young drivers, ages 18 to 34, were drunk while driving in fatal crashes over the July 4th period in 2012.

Motorcycle drivers represented the highest percentage of alcohol impaired drivers in fatal crashes. In 2012, 27 percent of the motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had a BAC of .08 or higher.

Aside from putting your life and the lives of others at risk by drinking and driving, Kern County police remind, driving impaired can also lead to other serious consequences. A DUI arrest can mean time in jail, loss of your license, and steep financial expenses — the average DUI costs about $10,000.

Local law enforcement recommends these simple tips to prevent drunk driving:

  • Plan a safe way home before the fun begins.
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver.
  • If you‘re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Use Designated Driver of Bakersfield as a sober ride program.
  • If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don‘t hesitate to Call 9-1-1.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

MADD on Fourth of July

In anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday weekend — one of the deadliest holidays for drunk driving crashes — Uber Technologies and Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched #UberMADD, a national partnership designed to prevent drunk driving.

Uber, which connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services, recently launched in Bakersfield, and so has its competitor Lyft. To kick off the #UberMADD campaign, Uber will donate $1 to MADD for every ride taken and $10 for every new rider in the United States between 6 a.m. on July 4 and 6 a.m. on July 5, when riders use the promotion code “UberMADD.”

MADD also urges adults to plan ahead for a non-drinking designated driver if Fourth of July plans include alcohol.

In addition to the dangers posed by drunk driving on roadways, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol was the leading factor in boating fatalities last year, contributing to 16 percent of boating deaths. Whether you’re in a car or on a boat, the dangers of drinking and driving are the same, MADD shared.

“Have a plan, designate a driver and pay attention out there,” said Carla Pearson, program coordinator and victim advocate for MADD Kern County. “It’s also important for sober drivers to pay attention to their surroundings, too. Look out for each other. We don’t need any more lives lost.”

As a reminder, MADD Kern County and Chain | Cohn | Stiles are partnering with local law enforcement and other groups in the first-ever “Walk-Run Like MADD” 5K walk and competitive run. It’s aimed to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes.

For more information on the event, which will be held Sept. 20, read a previous blog post here, or visit the main event webpage here.

Fireworks Safety

Like driving, alcohol and fireworks also do not go together. Bakersfield safety officials here warn that if fireworks are not set off properly, the results could be devastating.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles, with the help of Bakersfield Fire Department and Kern County Fire Department, has compiled several safety tips and advice for you and your pets this Independence Day.

Read them here.

And for media coverage regarding fireworks safety, read this article in The Bakersfield Californian.

MADD, CCS brings together Kern County residents for inaugural Walk Like MADD event to eliminate drunk driving

May 29, 2014 | 9:23 am


A 22-year-old respiratory therapist named Princess, who was the primary provider for her family. A 25-year-old pregnant mother-to-be. A 6-month-old daughter, and sister to a twin. What do all of these people have in common?

These are just some of the innocent lives taken away from Bakersfield this year at the hands of people driving under the influence. In 2014 thus far, Kern County has witnessed seven fatal crashes involving DUI drivers, according to Bakersfield Police Department and California Highway Patrol statistics. In 2013, Kern saw 15 DUI-related fatalities. They are statistics, arrests and tragedies that could have been 100 percent preventable – choices were made by people to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. That decision affected entire families and communities.

In an effort to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes, the Bakersfield/Kern County affiliate of Mothers Against Drunk Driving will host its first-ever “Walk/Run Like Madd” 5K at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Park at River Walk.

“This is our moment to say enough is enough,” said Carla Pearson, program coordinator and victim
advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. “We need to stop this madness on our
roadways.”

For Pearson, she knows too well the negative effects of drinking and driving. In 2002, her stepson, 23-year-old Adam Pierce, was killed by a repeat DUI offender. Following that tragedy, Pearson campaigned for victim’s rights in and out of the courtroom, and to take DUI offenders off of the streets. Her fight led to changes in California law in 2002 (Adam’s Law: AB 2173, VC 23593) that warned convicted DUI offenders that if they drove while drunk and someone died, they could be charged with murder.
Since 2011, MADD Kern County has assisted in more than 500 cases involving felony, injury and
fatal DUIs.

Today, Pearson is bringing the 5K walk and run to Kern County in hopes that local residents can help make a change in our community.

“The stories are still in the news, and we’re not getting it. Our community members are being killed by people’s wrong choices,” Pearson said. “We need to bring awareness. We need to make a change.”
Pearson is backed in this inaugural event by several local agencies including the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, Bakersfield Police Department, California Highway Patrol and sponsors including the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Walk Like MADD events are taking place in cities across the country, but ths is a first for Bakersfield. Registration is $15 for those ages 5-21, and $20 for those who are 21 and older. Corporations and groups are encouraged to form teams of 10 or more, and are asked to raise $100 each through donations. The goal in this inaugural walk and run is to raise $25,000 locally.

Individuals can participate in Walk Like MADD in three ways:

1) You can register to walk as an individual or form a team.
2) If you unable to attend, you can sign up online to raise money as a virtual walker.
3) Or, you can give a one-time donation to Walk Like MADD.

To sign up, donate or for more information, go to the local walk-run portal HERE.

You can also Google “Bakersfield Walk Like MADD” or search on Facebook: “Bakersfield Walk Like MADD.”

For more local information on the walk-run, to get in touch with local victims and/or families of victims, or if you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, contact Jorge Barrientos at 661-334-4948, jbarrientos@chainlaw.com.

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ABOUT MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING
Founded by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. With the help of those who want a safer future, MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving will end this danger on America’s roads. PowerTalk 21 is the national day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol, using the proven strategies of Power of Parents® to reduce the risk of underage drinking. And as one of the largest victim services organizations in the U.S., MADD also supports drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every 8.6 minutes at 1-877-MADD-HELP. Learn more at www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

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SOBERING FACTS

MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING

  • MADD is a nonprofit, grassroots organization with more than 2 million members and supporters nationwide.
  • It was founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver.

DRUNK DRIVING IN BAKERSFIELD/KERN COUNTY

  • In 2014 thus far, Kern County has witnessed seven fatal crashes involving DUI drivers, according to Bakersfield Police Deparment and California Highway Patrol statistics.
  • In 2013, Kern saw 15 DUI-related fatalities.

DRUNK DRIVING IN CALIFORNIA

  • In 2012, California saw 802 drunk driving fatalities where drivers had .08 BAC or higher.
  • That represents nearly 30 percent of all total traffic deaths, and a nearly 4 percent increase from the year before.

DRUNK DRIVING IN THE UNITED STATES

  • In 2012, 10,322 people died in drunk driving crashes nationwide – one every 51 minutes.
  • Drunk driving makes up one-third of all highway fatalities in the United States.
  • Almost every 90 seconds, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash.
  • One in three people will be involved in drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
  •  Teen alcohol use kills about 4,700 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.

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EVENT INFORMATION

WHAT: The Kern County/Bakersfield affiliate of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosts its signature “Walk Like MADD” 5K fundraising walk and run on Saturday, Sept. 20, at The Park at River Walk. Local families, friends and co-workers will walk to raise funds and show support for MADD’s “Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving.”

Funds raised through Walk Like MADD help further MADD’s life-saving mission and the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, which calls for such things as high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers and support for the development of advanced in-vehicle technology to prevent a drunk driver from operating the vehicle. Funds also support victims and survivors of drunk-driving crashes.

The timing for Walk Like MADD is significant because Bakersfield and Kern County have been host to one too many fatal DUI crashes in recent years.

WHEN: 6 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014; Pre-walk remarks begin at 6:30 a.m.; Walk begins at 7 a.m.

WHERE: The Park at River Walk, 11200 Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield.

WHY: In 2014 thus far, Kern County has witnessed seven fatal crashes involving DUI drivers, according to Bakersfield Police Department and California Highway Patrol statistics. In 2013, Kern County saw 15 DUI-related fatalities. Nationwide, more than 10,000 people were killed in 2012 and another 345,000 people were injured in drunk-driving crashes.

VISUALS: Families of victims of drunk-driving crashes, supporters, law enforcement personnel and
other community members walking and running for the cause.

SIGN UP: Go HERE

CONTACT: Jorge Barrientos, Marketing Director: 661-334-4948, jbarrientos@chainlaw.com