Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins MADD Kern County in honoring locals fighting against DUI crimes

June 12, 2019 | 2:48 pm


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other community members on Wednesday at Hodel’s Country Dining for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes.

In all, 67 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded during the 2019 MADD Kern County Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon, as well as a prosecutor from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.  Awards were handed out to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer, among others.

“There are numerous ways we as a community can come together to fight against DUI crimes, whether it’s through law enforcement and prosecution, serving as a designated driver, or helping raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in Kern County,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “It’s important we acknowledge and award the special efforts made here. Simply, these people are saving lives.”

The award recipients were as follows (for a full awards list, scroll to the bottom of this post):

  • Top DUI Arresting Officer: Officer Robert Tyo, Bakersfield Police Department, 223 DUI arrests
  • Prosecutor of the Year: Kim Richardson, Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Probation Department Award: Brian Mara, DUI Program Supervisor
  • Community Champion Award: Jeff Platt, Eyewitness News
  • Top CHP Officer: Officer Rodney Black (Bakersfield), 117 DUI arrests

The awards ceremony was organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Chevron, Ira and Carole Cohen with UBS Financial, Kern County Prosecutors Association, and Michael Yraceburn and Sally Herald CPA.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here. The second event, Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, will take place this year on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Park at River Walk.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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2019 MADD KERN COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT & PROSECUTOR

RECOGNITION AWARDS LUNCHEON

 

TOP DUI ARRESTING OFFICER OF KERN COUNTY

Officer Robert Tyo – 223 DUI Arrests: Bakersfield Police Department                       

 

PROSECUTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Kim Richardson: Prosecutor, Kern County District Attorney’s Office     

 

PROBATION DEPARTMENT AWARD

Brian Mara: DUI Program Supervisor, Kern County Probation Department                     

 

COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

Jeffrey Platt: Eyewitness News

 

TOP ARRESTING OFFICER PER DEPARTMENT

Taft Police Department                                                Officer Andrew Avila              8

Shafter Police Department                               Officer Janet Fernandez                       9

Kern County Sheriff (Wasco)                          Deputy Brandon Routh                        9

Ridgecrest Police Department                          Officer Laura Kenney              13

California Highway Patrol (Fort Tejon)                        Officer Jason Lachaussee        10

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Bryan Lombardi          29

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Rodney Black              117

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Robert Tyo                  223

 

CENTURY AWARDS

More than 100 DUI arrests in 2018

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Adrian Tait                  103

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Dallas Plotner              114

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Rodney Black              117

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Robert Tyo                  223

 

DEUCE AWARDS

Between 1 and 49 DUI arrests in 2018

Taft Police Department                                                Sargent Corey Beilby               5

Taft Police Department                                                Officer Moises Martinez          5

California Highway Patrol (Fort Tejon)                        Officer Pablo Hinojosa                        6

Kern County Sheriff (Wasco)                          Senior Deputy Steve Davis      6

Shafter Police Department                               Officer William Draucker        7

Shafter Police Department                               Officer Eric Diaz                      7

Taft Police Department                                                Officer Andrew Avila              8

Shafter Police Department                               Officer Janet Fernandez                       9

Kern County Sheriff (Wasco)                          Deputy Brandon Routh                        9

Ridgecrest Police Department                          Officer Corey Rinaldi              10

California Highway Patrol (Fort Tejon)                        Officer Jason Lachaussee        10

Ridgecrest Police Department                          Officer Laura Kenney              13

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Victor Swall                 20

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Thomas Wahl              20

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Christopher Denman    23

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jacqueline Smith          23

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Adam Clayton             24

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Tyler Olson                  25

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Michael Galvez                        26

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Michael Livesay          26

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Luis Ballesteros                       26

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Donald Mulligan          26

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Alejandro Zuniga         26

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Jason Carroll                27

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Richard Robles                        27

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jeremiah Holt              29

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Bryan Lombardi          29

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Johnny Moreno                       35

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Kurtis Caid                  37

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jordaon Hokit              38

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Bernabe Mejia             38

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Francisco Chavez        41

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jose Bravo                   41

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Kasey Knott                 42

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Hector Organista          43

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Ryan Grant                  44

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jason Wood                 45

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Brett Otto                     45

 

 

MADD AWARDS

Between 50 and 99 DUI arrests in 2018

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Freddie Garcia             52

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Chad Smithson                        53

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Brandon Carey                        59

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Michael Reynolds        59

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Andrew Marquez         61

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Brianna Pace                66

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Eric Medrano               67

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Ahearn Luca                70

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jose M. Diaz                72

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Daniel Dinsing             73

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jessie Velasquez          74

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Michael Ramos                        77

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Matthew Iturriria          80

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Julio Villalobos                        80

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jaime Cervantes           81

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jarrod Bone                 82

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jeff Geer                     83

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Victor Valadez             84

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Arturo Aldrete             92

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Tomas Martinez           92

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Gregory Jorgensen       96

The wrongful death case of David Sal Silva

May 18, 2016 | 7:41 am


On the night of May 7, 2013, David Sal Silva fell asleep in front of a home in east Bakersfield, across from Kern Medical Center. Several law enforcement officers arrived on scene and proceeded to use unreasonable and excessive force in striking Silva with batons several times all over his body, while he screamed for his life and repeatedly begged the officers to stop.

After being repeatedly beaten, bitten and hog-tied, Silva stopped breathing. And shortly after midnight, Silva was taken to Kern Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

These events and those that followed after this night made international news, including the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of Silva’s family in 2013, to the settlement reached in May 2016.

Below is a chronological order of events and media coverage in the death and civil case of David Sal Silva.

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‘BEGGING FOR HELP’

Early reports from law enforcement officials claimed officers struggled with a man in his 30s for eight minutes in front of a home on the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive in east Bakersfield. Officers used batons and a K-9 unit before officers noticed the man was struggling to breath, called an ambulance, which rushed him across the street to Kern Medical Center emergency room. He would die shortly after.

The man was David Sal Silva, 33, a father of four.

Local media soon after reported a total of seven Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputies, including a K-9, and two California Highway Patrol officers arrived to the scene. They struck Silva with batons, released the K-9 on him, took him to the ground, restrained him and handcuffed him.

Immediately, witnesses stepped forward and described the incident.

“I watched a man deliberately murdered in my face,” one man who did not want to be identified told KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News. “I see an officer and the K9 dog, with a man detained on the ground, and the man was screaming for help … They were just sitting on him. And the guys, they were holding him down and punching him, too … He wasn’t resisting. He was begging for help, and begging for his life.”

Besides witness statements, media also reported audio and video documented the beating.

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CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATED

Surveillance video obtained by KERO-23 News after the beating death showed Silva being repeatedly beaten with a stick while more law enforcement officers arrive.

A 911 call, too, helped document the incident.

“There is a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the (expletive) out of him and killed him,” the caller tells dispatchers. “I have it all on video camera. We videotaped the whole thing.”

“He was like a piece of meat,” the caller later told Los Angeles Times. “We were telling them: ‘He’s dead. You guys already killed him.'”

Details also emerged of how officers took witness cell phones that contained videos of officers beating Silva, hogtying him, lifting him and dropping him twice. Witnesses described how they were essentially harassed and held kept captive inside their own home by officers until they released their phones, without a search warrant being presented. Officers promised to return phones the next day, but were told when they inquired about their phones that the Sheriff’s Department was keeping the phone until the investigation was over.

At the same time, the Silva family reached out to and obtained the representation of Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“I have two grieving parents and one grieving brother who want to see the body of their son and brother,” David K. Cohn, managing partner of Chain | Cohn | Stiles told news media. “But we will get to the bottom of this and I ask the sheriff’s department, once again, what are you hiding?”

The public feared a cover up by law enforcement officials was in the making, media reported. Chain | Cohn | Stiles would plan to file a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of the family.

Meanwhile, Silva’s family mourned his death.

“I can’t believe this happened,” David’s father Sal Silva told The Bakersfield Californian at his vigil, sobbing while kneeling down and touching the blood stains left on the sidewalk from the incident. “My son was a family man who loved his kids and family and in the back of my mind I still hold on to the possibility that the body we haven’t seen, might not be my son.”

The beating death of David Silva brought back memories for many of the infamous Rodney King beating, in addition to other high-profile deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcement. The coverage would continue for years.

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PHONES & THE FBI

Fears that police were attempting to cover up details of the beating death of David Silva grew as Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood revealed that video evidence expected to be found on one of two cell phones confiscated from witnesses was not present on the phone.

The phones were handed over to the Bakersfield Police Department for examination, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also called upon for a “parallel investigation.”

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PROTESTS & LOST TRUST 

The beating death of Silva at the hands of police, subsequent phone confiscation, missing videos and other civil rights violations resulted in protests throughout Kern County.

Protesters stood in front of the Kern County Superior Court and held signs that read, “protection of our rights” and “stop police brutality.”

“I believe in my heart that someone has to investigate this and find out why it happened and why it’s been happening, please, just give my brother justice,” Chris Silva, David Silva’s brother, told The Bakersfield Californian.

On May 20, 2013, attorneys for the witnesses who had their phones confiscated and returned by investigators released video footage that showed the final moments of Silva’s life as he screamed while officers held him down.

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‘ACCIDENTAL’ DEATH 

On May 23, 2013, Sheriff Donny Youngblood called the death of David Silva “accidental” due to heart disease, according to a department he leads, the Kern County Coroner’s Office. Youngblood also slammed media for sending “shockwaves all across the United States” in the case.

“They’re trying to say he died of natural causes,” David Cohn told The Bakersfield Californian. “Who would believe that?”

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CLAIMS, LAWSUITS FILED

In June 2013, Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the Silva family filed wrongful death and federal civil rights claims claim against the nine officers involved in Silva’s death, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, Kern County, and the state of California.

The complaint sought damages on behalf of David Silva’s four young children, his significant other, his parents and his brother, 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 David Silva.

“David Sal Silva was a loving young man who cared deeply for his family and his four young children,” David Cohn said in a statement to media. “On May 7, 2013, David died as a result of unreasonable and excessive force used by nine law enforcement officials, who repeatedly struck him with batons and hog-tied him despite his numerous cries for help. Those cries will forever be heard by his family, and in particular his four children, who will now have to grow up without their father. While this lawsuit will certainly not undo what happened, my hope is that it will serve as a catalyst for serious change amongst local law enforcement agencies. It is time that we put this longstanding ‘strike first, ask questions later’ culture to rest once and for all.”

A month later, local media described inconsistencies between information provided by Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and information found in the Kern County Coroner’s autopsy report, including the use of the hogtie restraint. The tactic has been banned altogether by law enforcement agencies, including the Bakersfield Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Cohn stated the manner by which Silva was restrained may have played a role in Silva’s death by causing “positional asphyxiation.”

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NO CRIMINAL CHARGES

In April 2014, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green announced that her office would not be seeking criminal charges against the law enforcement officers involved in the death of David Silva.

“This is the reason we need an independent advisory panel evaluating these types of cases,” David Cohn said in a statement at the time. “Kern County District Attorney’s Office personnel work with these agencies every day, and they’re the ones in charge of prosecuting cases for them. Apparently, the way it works in Kern County is that unless they catch the officers red-handed, nothing will happen. It appears that they look for ways not to prosecute.

“Given that we do not have an independent panel in place to investigate, that’s the reason we filed a lawsuit in this case on behalf of the Silva family. Through this lawsuit, we believe the truth will come out. We have the ability to question these officers under oath. We’ll be more thorough in this investigation than any investigation that the Kern County District Attorney’s Office has done thus far. We won’t just rely on the investigative reports prepared by the Sheriff’s office, which are self-serving, one-sided versions of the events leading up to David Silva’s tragic death.”

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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY 

Dozens chanted for justice in downtown Bakersfield on the one-year anniversary of Silva’s death, including representatives from Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

“We remain committed to obtaining justice on behalf of David and his entire family, especially his four children, who will be without a father for the rest of their lives,” attorney David Cohn said on the date. “The road to obtaining justice will be a difficult one; however, we are confident that in the end, the truth will prevail and justice will be done. This case is certainly about David Silva and about what happened to him, but it is also about much more than that. It is about changing the culture of local law enforcement in this community, and holding law enforcement officers who use unreasonable and excessive force accountable for their actions.”

Protests and rallies would continue throughout Kern County.

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CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION 

In late October, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Civil Rights Division determined there was not sufficient evidence to sustain a federal criminal prosecution of officers involved in the death of David Sal Silva, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the investigation was closed.

“To maintain the public’s trust and fulfill the high obligations undertaken by all law enforcement, it is critical that we diligently evaluate such allegations,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. “We undertook a careful evaluation of the evidence in this case, and we appreciate the assistance we received, particularly from our partners in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I extend my condolences to the entire Silva family for the loss they suffered with the tragic passing of Mr. Silva.”

The Silva family now looked to the civil courts for justice.

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PROTESTS FOR CHANGE

In the months and several deaths at the hands of police throughout the United States — Michael Brown in Furguson, Miss. and Eric Garner in New York — sparked protests and riots nationwide. In Bakersfield, police shot unarmed Ramiro James Villegas (James De La Rosa) in November 2014, which helped advance the chants for more accountability locally. In Kern County, the Silva family led the charge.

“Police brutality is an issue here and we won’t let it go away,” Chris Silva said at a December 2014 rally.

In March 2015, hundreds of family members, friends and supporters of people who have lost loved ones in confrontations with local law enforcement took to the streets of Bakersfield in a march that revisited the scenes of some of the deaths, including the scene of the death of David Silva.

“I’m here to support the Silva family and all the other families who have lost loved ones because of mistakes made by the police,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat told The Bakersfield Californian. “We’re not saying all police officers are bad people,” Gehlawat said. “But on occasion, police officers cross the line, and when that happens it’s important the officer be held accountable so that it doesn’t happen again to another family.”

In July, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office announced it would be reviewing all officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, and all uses of force resulting in death, for all law enforcement agencies throughout Kern County. Protesters contended the DA’s office has already shown that it cannot provide truly independent oversight of the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

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‘AMERICA’S DEADLIEST POLICE’ 

In December 2015, The Guardian — a renowned British national daily newspaper that also covers issues in the United States —unveiled its five-part series that examines the use of deadly force, rough justice, sexual misconduct cases and other issues involving “America’s deadliest police” of Kern County.

“Police in Kern County, California, have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015,” according to The Guardian’s report. “The Guardian examines how, with little oversight, officers here became the country’s most lethal.”

Among the cases highlighted by The Guardian was the death of David Sal Silva, and other Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil rights and wrongful death cases. The series featured how the brutal tactics of officers in Kern County have ended lives, cost the public millions, and prompted claims of a police force out of control.

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TRIAL 

In March 2016, a federal judge refused to dismiss most claims, including those involving allegations of excessive force and wrongful death, in the lawsuit filed against Kern County in the death of David Silva.

“This is a resounding victory for us because the judge ruled in our favor in almost all of the claims, both federal and state,” attorney Neil Gehlawat told The Bakersfield Californian. “We’re very pleased with the judge’s ruling in that respect, and believe his ruling is consistent with the evidence in the case.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles worked together on the civil case with the Law Offices of Dale Galipo, as a lead trial attorney. The trial was set to begin in U.S. District Court in Fresno on May 12, 2016.

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SETTLEMENT

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, a settlement was reached for $3.4 million.

“The settlement today, nearly three years to the date of Silva’s death, is a vindication of a three-year campaign by the Silva family for justice, which brought national and international media attention to police brutality in Bakersfield,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles said in a statement announcing the settlement.

Attorneys from Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Law Offices of Dale Galipo hosted a press conference for media on May 5, 2016, along with Silva’s family. You can watch the complete press conference here.

“This case is now over, and this settlement is a bittersweet end to a long journey to achieving justice,” said attorney Neil Gehlawat during the press conference. “It’s bitter in that David is not here with us, and he is not here today to be a father to his children, to be a brother, to be a son. But it’s sweet because we know that the money that we’ve obtained in this case is going to go a long way to helping David’s children secure a bright future.”

 

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles responds to Kern County DA’s office decision to not file charges in wrongful death case

March 16, 2016 | 7:55 am


The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles responded to the recent decision by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office to not pursue criminal charges against the deputy involved in the fatal crash in Bakersfield that killed motorcyclist Larry Maharrey.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a wrongful death claim related to the crash. On July 14, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road, when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash.

Deputy Gomez violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light. And the California Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team suggested a vehicular manslaughter charge against Gomez.

The widow of Larry Maharrey, Paula Maharrey, as well as Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matthew Clark, shared their statements with local media regarding the District Attorney’s Office decision to not file charges against Sgt. Gomez in the fatal crash:

PAULA MAHARREY, WIDOW

“I’m very disappointed by the District Attorney’s refusal to prosecute Sgt. Gomez. My family is upset by the fact that the District Attorney and Sgt. Gomez are both employees of the County of Kern. It appears that one county agency is defending another, and it screams of a conflict of interest. We wish that an independent investigating agency such as the state Attorney General’s Office would look into this matter. We are also saddened by the fact that the needless loss of my husband’s life will do nothing to discourage this kind of reckless driving in the future.”

MATTHEW CLARK, ATTORNEY

“I, like my clients, are very disappointed in the Office of the District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute Sgt. Gomez. We’ve had four innocent lives lost in the county in the last four years due to the reckless driving exhibited by some employees of Kern County Sheriff’s Department. This is the most offensive kind of loss of life in light of the fact that people are being killed by those very officers who have taken on a duty to protect them.

“In an approximately 250-page report, the CHP Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team concluded that Sgt. Gomez’s conduct substantiated a violation of California Penal Code Section 192 (c) (2) – Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter. The District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute appears to be in conflict of interest given the fact that the District Attorney and Sgt. Gomez are both employees of the County of Kern.

Without question, Sgt. Gomez conduct in this case was in violation of Kern County Sheriff’s Office policy regarding emergency driving in that he failed to pre-clear the lanes of the intersection. His failure to do so killed Larry Maharrey. The failure to prosecute sends the wrong message to law enforcement, suggesting that they are above the law.”

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MADD, Chain | Cohn | Stiles 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, [email protected]

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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, [email protected]