Deputy should have done more, kin claim

A sheriff's deputy encountering a drug-addled motorist who had run out of gas should have done something to keep him from harming himself and others, reads a claim filed by the man's survivors.

Instead, the officer went on his way and drivers who couldn't see Jeffrey Thomas walking in the dark on north McHenry Avenue ran over and killed him, the document claims.

"Thomas was slurring his words and had red eyes," the Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy wrote in a report after the accident. But the deputy smelled no alcohol on the victim's breath and he "had no issues keeping his balance," the report reads.

The deputy came upon Thomas' car on McHenry near St. Francis Drive about 4:40 a.m. Oct. 5 and spotted Thomas, 28, of Modesto in a nearby field. He said he was out of gas and his father lived nearby, the officer wrote.

Thomas denied drinking alcohol or taking drugs or medicine, the report says. "It appeared that Thomas was able to care for himself" and declined offers of help, and he "appeared to be no threat to him(self) or oncoming traffic," the officer wrote.

About 40 minutes later, Thomas, wearing a dark hooded jacket, was struck by a Chevy truck driven by a 47-year-old Ripon woman, according to a California Highway Patrol report. A 64-year-old Copperopolis woman also drove over his body in a Porsche, the report says.

The first driver "had no time to brake or swerve," the report says, and the second driver didn't know she had hit a man until she "suddenly felt a large bump in the roadway."

A state laboratory test showed Thomas had "toxic levels of both amphetamine and methamphetamine in his blood," the report says.

His family members think "the deputy should have, for the safety of (Thomas) and of others, taken (him) into custody," reads the claim filed by Modesto attorney Mark Nelson against Stanislaus County.

The Bee was unable to reach a county attorney for comment.

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