An internal investigation has determined that a Gilbert patrolman was in the wrong when he drove through a red light in October with his squad car lights running but without the siren
That failure by officer Juan E. Ocegueda on Oct. 4 sent three family members to local hospitals. Ocegueda was issued a 40-hour suspension and a six-month extension on his probation, according to his personnel file obtained by the Tribune.
Police department policy for traveling in an emergency situation is to use both lights and sirens. That day, Ocegueda should have had the siren operating, police found.
Ocegueda, driving east on Elliot Road, had been traveling to a break-in call when the collision occurred at the intersection at Val Vista Drive.
Ocegueda told investigators that when he checked for traffic, the intersection looked “as clear as day.”
“Once he was in the intersection he looked down to turn on his siren, but was not able to. He said he did not have time to turn it on because when he looked up, he saw a car and the collision occurred,” according to the internal affairs document.
The wreck pinned the family’s Oldsmobile against a power pole. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Brice, a passenger, was bleeding from a large gash on the side of her face.
So far this year, there have been three officer-involved wrecks at intersections where police were driving with sirens and or lights on while responding to emergencies, Gilbert police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Duncan said.
The first occurred Sept. 26 at Pecos and Greenfield roads when officer Janssen Redcay was driving to a life-threatening traffic crash, Duncan said. The squad car had lights and sirens operating. Redcay was found to not be at fault, Duncan said.
The third and most recent wreck took place Monday on a stretch of Pecos near Higley Road. Internal affairs is investigating the collision, which involved officer Tyler Groth.
Gilbert police said the collisions could have been avoided.
Starting Monday, Gilbert will launch a test in which 20 patrol vehicles will be equipped with traffic signal devices to automatically change intersection lights from red to green in emergency situations. Duncan said the test will last six months.
The use of the emitters is not due to one single collision but presents a chance to take advantage of technology that could make the streets safer for the public as well as officers, he said.