The mother of a pedestrian killed in a crash involving a sheriff’s patrol car and another vehicle in West Hollywood in 2015 is suing the county and the other driver on claims of wrongful death and
Patricia Minero, the mother of 27-year-old Jonathan Peña of Hollywood, is seeking unspecified damages on allegations of wrongful death and negligence.
Her lawsuit, filed Friday, names as defendants Los Angeles County and Viridiana Perez, who was behind the wheel of a car involved in a collision with the patrol vehicle shortly before Peña was hit. A sheriff’s department representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit.
The crash occurred near the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards about 11:05 p.m. last Oct. 15. Peña, a desk clerk at West Hollywood’s Holloway Motel, died at a hospital. The two deputies in the patrol car were hospitalized in serious condition, as was another pedestrian, 40-year-old USC cardiologist Michael Fong, the LASD reported previously. Deputy Matt Ahrari was driving the patrol car that hit Peña and Fong. Also in that car was deputy Robert Sandoval.
The deputies were responding to a report of a felony spousal assault. As their patrol vehicle — with lights and sirens activated — was headed east on Santa Monica, it clipped the rear of another vehicle, ran over the curb and struck the pedestrians, according to the sheriff’s department.
However, the lawsuit alleges the deputy driving the patrol car lost control while trying to pass Perez’s car. The patrol car hit a curb and went onto the sidewalk, where Peña and the other pedestrian were struck, the lawsuit
The suit alleges both the deputy and Perez were driving negligently. The complaint also maintains the sheriff’s department negligently hired, trained and supervised Deputy Ahrari, who is identified by name in the suit but not listed as a defendant.
Shortly after the crash the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, which provides police services to West Hollywood under a $19 million annual contract, asked the California Highway Patrol to investigate the matter and determine whether the local sheriff’s deputies were at fault. WEHOville has made requests over many months for results of the investigation, to no avail. Now that a civil lawsuit has been filed, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is likely to further block release of results of the investigation, which it also did in the killing of one young man and serious injury to another by three local deputies in a shooting in April 2014 on Palm Avenue. The Sheriff’s Department eventually released a report on that incident, but blacked out all relevant information, rendering its report useless.
The State of California has the most restrictive laws in the country barring public access to law enforcement disciplinary records and civilian complaints. Such restrictions are strongly supported by police officer unions, whose endorsement is sought by local and state politicians up for re-election.