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Cloverdale re-opens hit-and-run investigation

By JULIE JOHNSON and RANDI ROSSMANN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A memorial for Miguel Sanchez stands on Main Street near the police station in Cloverdale. Sanchez died Dec. 31 from injuries incurred when he was hit by a 17-year-old driver.

The Cloverdale Police Department has reopened its investigation into the hit-and-run Dec. 27 that killed longtime resident Miguel “Mike” Sanchez, 83.

Police officials declined to say what the investigation will entail, although police Sgt. Scott Allred said the department relaunched its efforts after receiving a call Tuesday from the District Attorney’s Office requesting that it look into specific aspects of the case.

The department had dropped its investigation Jan. 3 at the suggestion of the District Attorney’s Office after being informed that the criminal case had been settled in juvenile court a few days after the hit-and-run — and two days before Sanchez died.

“The district attorney called us and asked us to do some follow-up investigation,” Allred said, declining to identify the caller. “They’re asking us to do some stuff that hasn’t been done yet.”

The call came a day after District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who took office Jan. 3, announced she would conduct a “thorough review” of how the case was handled in juvenile court following criticism from Sanchez’s family.

Sanchez was struck by a driver who has been identified as Cloverdale High School senior Mitch Carlson, 17, who is back in school. Sanchez was taken off life support four days after the incident, on Dec. 31.

Sonoma County coroner’s officials performed a medical examination of Sanchez on the following Monday, Jan. 3, a week after the crash. An officer was present for the exam and Sgt. Allred called the District Attorney’s Office later that day to report their findings, he said.

During the phone call, a district attorney’s official said the case was closed and there was no need to continue spending staff time on the crash, Allred said. He would not identify the official.

That advice was reiterated during a phone call later that week between Allred and Interim Chief Deputy District Attorney Bud McMahon, who said the case had been resolved in juvenile court the week of the crash.

Cloverdale Police Chief Mark Tuma said Tuesday that his department took the steps needed and “what the district attorney did is out of our control.

“We arrest the people, that’s our job,” he said. “We did our job, and how they handled the case once it’s down there is up to them.”

With Tuesday’s new instructions from the District Attorney’s Office, police will now expand what had been a preliminary accident report.

Miguel Sanchez

The case began on a quiet Monday morning as Carlson, a senior at Cloverdale High School and a forward on the varsity basketball team, was reportedly driving north on North Main Street at about 9:40 a.m., apparently headed to a 10 a.m. practice scheduled at the high school.

Sanchez was crossing North Main Street at Broad Street, heading home after gardening in a friend’s yard. He was well into the unmarked crossing when he was struck by the pickup as it traveled as fast as 25 mph, the posted speed limit, Allred said.

There were no signs of braking before the truck hit Sanchez, but the driver could have been slowing at the time of the collision, Allred said.

The impact threw Sanchez onto the pickup hood, Allred said. Sanchez landed on the pavement about 20 feet from where officers believe he was initially hit.

The teen drove around the injured man and on to school, Allred said.

The collision occurred a half-block from the police station and downtown post office, a hub for Cloverdale residents. At least two people standing outside the post office heard the collision and turned to see Sanchez lying in the roadway and the pickup heading north, Allred said.

One person ran to the police station, and the first call to 911 came in at 9:42 a.m., according to a police dispatch log.

Officer Damian Eglesfield and Community Services Officer Teresa McDonald ran out of the station to the intersection at 9:43, Allred said.

They found the elderly man on the ground, bleeding profusely from his head. He had injuries all along his left side, which was “consistent with crossing and getting hit,” Allred said.

Witnesses described the pickup as green with a chrome tool box in the back. Allred and Officer Michael Campbell set out to find the vehicle as the other officers interviewed witnesses.

An anonymous tipster notified police that the pickup was at Cloverdale High. The officers went to the school about 40 minutes after the collision and found a truck that matched the description, Allred said. The engine was warm, indicating it was recently parked. It also had hood damage.

Officers asked around and learned the identity of the driver. Allred wouldn’t say whether the teen was found at basketball practice, as previously reported by Sanchez’s family.

Officers arrested the teen at the school on suspicion of hit-and-run with injury or death and brought him to the station for questioning, Allred said. The teen was cooperative and told officers he’d been too scared to stop.

A police log showed he was at the station 61 minutes before he was taken to county juvenile hall in eastern Santa Rosa. The sergeant declined to say more about what Carlson told them.

Police denied a request for a copy of the preliminary accident report citing legal restrictions regarding juvenile cases.

However, Allred said the initial investigation indicated the driver wasn’t speeding, drunk or on drugs, nor was it believed that he had been talking on a cell phone or texting.

The sergeant declined to say if officers took a blood sample from the youth, but he said the driver showed no physical signs of impairment.

“The crime is ‘you left the scene,’” Allred said.

Officers knew by late the first day that Sanchez could die from his injuries, he said.

Cloverdale Police faxed their preliminary report on the collision to the D.A.’s office by 11 a.m. Tuesday, Allred said.

“We were still working the case,” he said.





9 Responses to “Cloverdale re-opens hit-and-run investigation”

  1. Maddy says:

    I feel sorry for all of you ignorant posters. You have nothing better to do than to spout garbage and make comments about people and an accident that you know nothing about. The family is neither rich nor influential and their son is not a “killer”. A horrible accident happened and he freaked out and left the scene. Was it right that he left? Of course not but if you could put yourself in his shoes maybe understandable, he does not have the experience of years of living. He is just a kid that panicked, nothing more. Why do you all want to turn this in to something that it isn’t. Everything isn’t always about race, sometimes it’s about accidents, bad decisions, bad timing, and someone in the DA’s office that screwed up. Mitch Carlson will spend the rest of his life reliving this accident. It will forever change the course of his life. Do you honestly think that a 17 year old boy, who has never been in trouble before should spend time in prison? That’s ludicrous and would be a huge miscarriage of justice. My heart goes out to the Sanchez family for their loss. I can’t help but wonder though…if Mr. Sanchez was the kind, caring, humanitarian that we’ve all been told that he was, would he want to see a young, 17 year old boy just starting his life go to prison for what was a horrible accident?

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  2. Denise says:

    I have lived here for several years. I have had to experience the ugly, ignorance, low life, no class, back woods mental family inheritent (Racism). I mostly experienced it when shopping and trying to find employment. I used to feel sorry for racist people now I dont waste my feeling for them at all.

    My thoughts on this horrible situation is not that its racist but more so that its a prejudice. A prejudice of community standings (where the money is). Look at the legal representation.

    The overall issue is that its not at all fair. Unfortunately neither is life. We all have to fight in life and I suggest the family of the victim to not give up and beg the community to stand by them. I am proud to be a part of this community when I see the people standing up to back a family that has been wronged as I see right now.

    I realize the kid did not try to do this. Also I feel bad for the kid because he is gonna have some nightmares from now on. His parents for the pain they must be going through for seeing his lack of responsibility. Its all bad. I pray for everyone involved.

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  3. Sorry 4 You says:

    I personally don’t care what race anyone is or any of the other BS. The fact of the matter is high up county government is SEVERELY corrupt! I have worked for the county many years, this place is a joke! I’m sorry us lower level folks can’t get the Soprano’s trash put in prison, but we’ll need help. Your calls to the California DOJ, FBI and others will go a long way towards justice. The incompetant Board of Spudweisers will have their feet to the fire! Our low level employees want your families to be SAFE and have the services you pay for, delivered! Thanks for supporting us.

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  4. Gang Enhancement says:

    I can assure you if the races of the parties were switched around, and a Hispanic male hit a white male, the driver would have been arrested, charged with a gang enhancement, and charged as an adult. But if it was a white male juvenile, hey they need him back in the “game”.

    Also, hey lets get some assistance to Cloverdale. This is out of their league. Send CHP or someone from a larger agency up there to assist investigate. This requires trained investigators and an Accident Reconstruction Team to properly investigate. And please don’t waste time sending any DA Investigators, they are glorified process servers that would not have a clue about traffic accidents.

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  5. Brad Atkins says:

    I hope those on this board (and there are many) who keep going on and on about how racism doesn’t exist anymore can learn something that people of color have known for a long time. Our Justice system is riddled with with racism and favoritism. If a Latino or black teen had run over a senior and then fled the scene and gone on to basketball practice (!) as if nothing happened. I seriously doubt he would be getting the sweetheart deal this teen (who killed someone!) got.There would be a HUGE outcry and the kids name and face would be plastered all over the paper. God forbid if he was “undocumented” they would have him UNDER the jail! But this teen gets the kid glove treatment. Why? His parents are white, well connected and his lawyer is brother of the former DA.
    This dirty deal happens over and over every day and every where in this country. The rich and their children get the best of everything and the benefit of the doubt always. The rest of us get harsh punishment and no mercy. Is it any wonder why people have no respect for the law? After having seen how criminals in mortgage fraud make millions while the guy who steals a six pack does hard time it’s a wonder anyone doesn’t know the first law of American Justice: It isn’t fair or just.

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  6. Looks like the family is rich and influential. No wonder.

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  7. Karma says:

    This is good to hear. Now to read though that the killer Mitch drove around Mr Sanchez’s body and on to school?
    I pray that this time around he is convicted of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, and goes to prison.
    It dosent matter if he is a minor, bottom line he killed someone, he hit Mr Sanchez, throwing him 20 feet, the killer Mitch drove his car AROUND Mr Sanchezs broken body, and the killer Mitch Carlson continued on with his day..serial killers also show lack of remorse or responsibility….

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  8. Graeme Wellington says:

    This article has a few clues. One of the quirks of the law is that the punishment for hit and run with injury is a felony. A vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor when the driver isn’t committing any other driving offense. So when they are talking about the kid not speeding, not texting, not doing anything else wrong, what they are talking about is whether or not there is proof to support a vehicular manslaughter charge.

    As odd and as counter-intuitive as it may be, the felony hit and run charge was the most serious offense and it would be the more serious offense whether or not the victim lived or died.

    It’s good that they are re-opening the case. The DA and the police need better spokespersons or the newspaper needs to know what questions to ask. We just never get a straight story. No wonder there is a controversy.

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  9. Graeme Wellington says:

    What’s the kid actually charged with anyway? Felony hit and run? Vehicular manslaughter? Was the victim jaywalking or in a crosswalk?

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