Andre Brice called his wife early Wednesday and told her to pray. His family’s car had just been struck by a Gilbert police cruiser, and his 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, was pinned against a power pole.
She was bleeding from a large gash on the side of her face.
“My husband called me,” said Lisa Brice of Chandler. “They were jammed in the car and he said, ‘Honey, pray.’ ”
When paramedics arrived about 4 a.m., Lauren was flown to a Phoenix hospital and Brice and his 16-year-old son, Andre Brice II, were taken to two separate hospitals. The father and son were released soon after, but Lauren is still recovering.
“They pulled chunks of glass out of her face,” Lisa Brice said. “She was in agony for a while.”
The family was driving in the early morning because Andre Brice owns a cleaning company, and his children, who are home-schooled, sometimes help.
Lauren said she was saying her morning prayers when the crash occurred.
Police said officer Juan Ocegueda, 26, was driving east on Elliot Road headed to a break-in call when he tried to run a red light with his lights on — but not his siren — and collided with the Brices’ Oldsmobile, which was northbound on Val Vista Drive.
The family’s car was pushed into a power pole, causing Lauren to suffer more extensive injuries than her father and brother. The officer refused to be taken to a hospital, officials said.
“We will be investigating the accident to see why he didn’t have his siren on,” said Gilbert spokesman Lt. Joe Ruet. “He should have had his siren on.”
Ocegueda has been a Gilbert officer for more than a year and had been driving his police cruiser on his own for three months, said police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Duncan.
It is unclear if the officer was traveling Code 3, which is the type of travel designated for emergency situations. When traveling Code 3, Gilbert’s policy states that the officer must use both siren and lights.
In this case, Ocegueda “had every good intention” when traveling to the call, Ruet said. The officer had reports of someone breaking into a home with residents inside.
The home had a history of 35 calls for service, including an incident where a SWAT team had to be called.
However, Ruet said the “burden of responsibility” to stay safe was on the officer because he was running a red light.
Both an internal affairs investigation and a traffic investigation are ongoing for the officer. It is unknown what Ocegueda could face in either area, but if he is found in violation of department policy, he could receive anything from a written warning to a dismissal, Duncan said. “The officer is very broken up over the accident,” Duncan said.
“He is very concerned about the family members and his heart goes out to the family. So does the Gilbert Police Department’s heart. We wish the best for them.”
Duncan said the officer will be permitted to return to work today if he is physically capable, pending any investigative findings that would bar him from working.
“I’m frustrated this happened,” Lisa Brice said. “These are my babies. I’m glad they are OK.”