Modesto police say Scenic Road crash 'is our fault'

Officer's driving record is next in department probe

February 1, 2010 

Modesto police have concluded that an officer was at fault in a Jan. 11 traffic accident with a sport utility vehicle that sheared off the back of the patrol car and sent both drivers to the hospital.

Officer Lee Gaines was driving east on Scenic Drive with his emergency lights and siren on when he lost control of his patrol car after driving through a curve east of Bodem Street and near the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, Lt. Scott Blom said Monday.

The patrol car slid into oncoming traffic and collided with a westbound Ford Expedition driven by Pablo Perez of Modesto, Blom said, adding that the SUV's left headlight hit the driver's side of the police car.

"The bottom line is this is our fault," said Blom, who is with the department's traffic unit. "We are willing to admit it and to apologize to the driver in the other vehicle. The officer came around the corner too fast, and he hit that car."

Gaines and the SUV driver, who were alone in their vehicles, were taken to Memorial Medical Center and later released.

The SUV driver had a cut near his knee, and Gaines complained of pain, police said the day of the accident.

Perez could not be reached for comment Monday.

The speed limit is 25 mph where the wreck occurred. Police declined to say how fast Gaines was driving because that information will be used in an administrative investigation of the accident, acting Police Chief Mike Harden said Monday.

Harden said these reviews can take about two weeks. He said an officer's driving history is included. He said the outcome can range from additional training for the officer to disciplinary action, such as being suspended without pay.

Gaines and other officers were driving to the Orangeburg Avenue and Oakdale Road area about 6 a.m. on Jan. 11 to help an officer who had called for backup.

The officer had tried to pull over the driver of a stolen 1998 Cadillac, but the driver abandoned the car and ran, Blom said.

The original call said the driver tossed a handgun as he was chased, but Blom said the weapon turned out to be a BB gun.

Officers took a suspect into custody about 15 minutes later. Blom said Stanislaus County resident Carlton Janssen, 31, was arrested on suspicion of auto theft, evading a police officer, a parole violation, and hit-and-run.

Blom said the driver of the Cadillac ran over a sign as he tried to elude police.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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