Taos County Sheriff's Office reviews crash data recorders for deputy, civilian wreck

The Taos County Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate a crash involving a deputy and a Taos couple who said they didn't see the deputy coming behind them when they tried to turn back into the left-hand turn lane on the northbound side of Paseo del Pueblo Sur at Siler Road. The sheriff's office recovered crash data recorders from the vehicles that will be reviewed with Santa Fe Police Department.

The Taos County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate a crash at the intersection of Paseo del Pueblo Sur and Siler Road Thursday night (July 9) that left a deputy’s Ford F-150 without a driver’s side tire and a smashed windshield and a civilian’s SUV turned over on its side.

Although crashes involving members of the sheriff’s office have sometimes been investigated by an outside agency, such as New Mexico State Police, Undersheriff Steve Miera said last week the crash would be handled in house, with Santa Fe Police Department offering outside oversight.

“[The Taos County Sheriff’s Office] is going to be the handling agency,” Miera said. “We will supplement our initial crash investigation through Santa Fe PD, who will do a reconstruction on it to keep that transparency factor in.”

Miera said on Monday (July 13) that a search warrant to obtain information from a crash data recorder in the civilian SUV had been approved. Crash data recorders indicate a vehicle’s speed, acceleration, braking, steering and air-bag deployment leading up to an accident. Miera was expecting investigators from the Santa Fe Department to arrive early this week to collect the data along with information from the deputy’s truck.

The data from the recorders should display critical information about the decisions the deputy and the man driving the SUV with his girlfriend Thursday night made leading up to the crash, which resulted in no injuries despite the dramatic scene it left in one of Taos’ most notorious intersections.

By around 8:30 p.m. that night, two blocks of Paseo had been cordoned off north from the street’s intersection with Siler Road by first responders from the sheriff’s office and Taos Police. Officers were taking photographs of the couple’s toppled vehicle and the white sheriff’s truck, which had skidded to halt outside the shuttered Indian Hills Inn.

Cynthia Trujillo, the passenger in the SUV, said she and her boyfriend were in the center northbound lane of Paseo attempting to turn left when another deputy came driving up behind them with lights flashing, but she was uncertain whether she heard sirens.

The traffic light was green, the couple said, so traffic was flowing to their right. Still, they said they pulled over to yield to the first sheriff’s truck, which they said was going so fast and kicking up so much dust that they didn’t realize there was a second following behind. When her boyfriend attempted to pull back into the turn lane, she said they were struck from behind by the second deputy, causing their vehicle to roll across the intersection.

“They were flying down the median and we saw them and we pulled off to the corner because we were already so far in the intersection that we couldn’t go on the other side, so we had to pull right here,” Trujillo said. “He flew by and we pulled back in to get back on the road and another one came flying by and hit us from the back and flipped our car.”

Miera said the deputies were responding to a serious call Thursday night with their lights and sirens on.

“The deputies were responding to a violent physical domestic on the north side of town,” he said. “One of the individuals is known to have weapons and has made threats toward law enforcement prior to.”

This isn’t the first time a member of the sheriff’s office has crashed with a civilian vehicle in the center median of Paseo. In August 2017, another officer was driving a motorcycle southbound through the center median while responding to a call when he crashed into a vehicle that was pulling out of Walmart. State police investigated the incident in that case and found the deputy at fault. Miera believes the investigation was flawed. He said it failed to take into account that the civilian driver was attempting to utilize the center median as a turn lane, which is illegal in New Mexico.

Miera said the internal investigation was an opportunity for the sheriff’s office to display a high level of integrity and transparency.

He said all dash cam video and other material related to Thursday night’s crash would be released to the public after the investigation is completed.

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