The Merced police officer driving a SWAT vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian in November was not at fault in the crash, according to a statement released Friday from the California Highway Patrol.
Officer Moses Nelson, 37, was driving the vehicle Nov. 20 north on R Street at West 14th Street when 60-year-old Hubertino Vallejo stepped off the curb and fell in front of the oncoming police vehicle, the CHP said in a news release.
Vallejo, of Planada, was taken to Mercy Medical Center Merced, where he later died.
Officer Moises Onsurez said investigators have concluded that Nelson was not at fault in the crash.
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“The (SWAT) vehicle was legally in the roadway, operating legally,” Onsurez told the Sun-Star.
The CHP said routine toxicology tests determined neither Nelson nor Vallejo were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of crash. CHP investigators said heavy rainfall reduced visibility and may have been a factor in the wreck.
Police Chief Norman Andrade said he was satisfied with the report’s findings.
“Our condolences go out to Mr. Vallejo’s family; it’s a very unfortunate situation and it’s never easy on any of the families involved,” Andrade said. “It’s also very hard, any time there’s a death involved, on all the officers involved.”
The investigation was conducted by the CHP Merced Area Office along with the CHP’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team out of Fresno, also known as the MAIT Unit.
The CHP said the Merced officers stopped near where Vallejo was struck and began to administer first aid. Vallejo was found in the road. He was struck by the right side of the vehicle, near a ladder that sticks out several inches, investigators said.
Eight officers were inside the vehicle at the time of the crash. They were returning to the station after a day of training out of town, the Merced Police Department reported.
Onsurez said the seven-month investigation included interviewing numerous witnesses and people involved in the crash, toxicology tests from both the driver and the pedestrian, as well as routine measurements and analysis of physical evidence collected at the scene.
The CHP’s highly specialized MAIT Unit handles major crash investigations. The unit was called in to investigate this case, Onsurez said, because there was an on-duty law enforcement vehicle involved.