Names of Merced police officers released in fatal pedestrian crash

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 22, 2013 

The Merced police officers involved in a crash that killed a 60-year-old pedestrian Wednesday have been identified by the California Highway Patrol, according to spokesman Jason Schoonhoven.

As the agency investigating the crash, the CHP determined Friday that Hubertino Vallejo of Planada was killed after being struck by an armored SWAT vehicle. Questions surfaced earlier in the week about whether the police vehicle hit Vallejo, but Schoonhoven said the agency has concluded it did.

“Now we know without a doubt that the pedestrian and the vehicle collided,” Schoonhoven said, adding that the determination was made after an autopsy Friday. “Our officer was there (during the autopsy) and they concluded that the gentleman and the vehicle collided.”

Officer Moses Nelson was driving the vehicle that struck Vallejo about 4:50 p.m. on east R Street and 14th Street.

The exact cause of Vallejo’s death is under investigation, but Sheriff Mark Pazin said Thursday there was “noticeable” head trauma. Vallejo was taken to Mercy Medical Center where he later died.

The CHP said Vallejo was walking south on the east R Street sidewalk moments before the collision and the SWAT vehicle was heading north on R Street in the No. 2 lane. It’s still unclear whether Vallejo had walked into the road or if he was somehow struck while on the sidewalk.

Schoonhoven said the officers stopped near where Vallejo was struck. The officers initially weren’t sure whether they had hit Vallejo, Schoonhoven said, but knew they’d come close. Vallejo was found lying down in the road or the bike lane. The officers began to administer first aid.

Schoonhoven said Vallejo was hit by the right side of the vehicle, near a ladder that sticks out several inches.

“We do know that the right side of the SWAT vehicle is where the pedestrian and the vehicle collided,” Schoonhoven said, noting that rain caused badly reduced visibility.

Sgt. Tony Aponte was the vehicle’s passenger, according to Schoonhoven. Other officers inside were identified as William McComb, Ramon Ruiz, Chris Cowings, Pintabona Leone, Mark Fillebrown and Vince Sapien.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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