Parent sues driver in crash that killed Los Osos teen

Alexander Gonzales appears in court Monday, June 23, 2014, for his initial arraignment on charges of driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in connection with a crash that killed Jackson Garland, 18, of Los Osos.
Alexander Gonzales appears in court Monday, June 23, 2014, for his initial arraignment on charges of driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in connection with a crash that killed Jackson Garland, 18, of Los Osos. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Heroin addict Alex Gonzales should not have been allowed to drive home after receiving an injection to treat his drug dependence, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

As a result, the suit claims, less than 10 minutes after Gonzales left the doctor’s office, he caused a deadly crash that killed a Los Osos teen.

The suit was filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Wednesday on behalf of Julie Stahl, whose son, Jackson Garland, 18, was killed June 18, 2014, while driving home on South Bay Boulevard.

“Plaintiff loved Jackson more than anything in the universe,” states the suit, filed by attorney Neil Tardiff.

The defendants in the suit include Gonzales, his parents and Kenneth Starr, who operates Ken Starr Addiction Medicine Group in Los Osos.

Gonzales is currently in jail, charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury. He has pleaded not guilty.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Gonzales was high on heroin and methamphetamine when the rental car he was driving crossed the center line and veered into oncoming traffic, colliding with Garland’s car head-on.

Witnesses after the accident said he displayed symptoms of someone under the influence, there were needle marks on his body, and police found a “hype kit” in his car that contained three used needles and two spoons that contained residue.

Gonzales also allegedly told police he should not have been driving.

Both the prosecution and the lawsuit claim Gonzales took heroin in the hour before the crash.

But defense attorney Darryl Genis previously said in court that Gonzales passed out at the wheel due to a mixture of Vivitrol, the medication he received from the doctor, and heroin taken around 4 a.m.

Vivitrol should not be given to anyone with heroin in their system, Genis said previously. One of the possible side effects of the combination, he said, is loss of consciousness.

The lawsuit claims Gonzales was injected with Vivitrol around 4:50 p.m. and that Gonzales left Starr’s office just before 5 p.m. According to the CHP, the accident occurred at 5:07 p.m.

“Starr knew or should have known that Alex Gonzales was under the influence of drugs when leaving Starr’s office and thus should have prevented him from operating a vehicle and/or leaving the office,” the suit states.

Starr’s staff also failed to follow protocol in the administration of Vivitrol for a first-time treatment, the suit claims.

Neither Starr nor Tardiff responded to requests for comment.

Gonzales’ parents told The Tribune he had been to Starr’s office around 18 times in the past, but he had never received Vivitrol before.

Vivitrol blocks opiates from acting on the receptors in the brain and can help ease drug cravings, according to the Center for Behavioral Health.

Gonzales had previously gone to the office for Vivitrol, according to a defense investigative report obtained by The Tribune, but that time he was denied Vivitrol when a urine test revealed he had recently used heroin.

Genis previously said Starr’s office should have given Gonzales a urine test on the day of the accident as well, but they did not.

According to the defense report, a staffer at the office said Gonzales did not look good after the injection.

The lawsuit also places blame on Gonzales’ parents, Cynthia and Greg Gonzales, for allowing their son to drive.

“The actions of Greg and Cynthia Gonzales, by allowing Alex Gonzales to leave the house under the influence of heroin and methamphetamines and operate a vehicle knowing he was a drug addict and knowing he was under the influence of drugs, were in conscious disregard for the safety of another,” the suit states, “because they were at all times aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his conduct and they willfully failed to avoid such consequences.”

The parents didn’t want to comment on the specifics of the suit, though they said Gonzales — a custodian at Cal Poly — had been doing well before going to the doctor that day.

“Alex drove there fine,” said his father, Greg Gonzales. “He worked that day fine. Then he’s not fine.”

Though they only answered limited questions, the parents said they wanted to speak about the impact Vivitrol had on their son.

“We don’t want this to happen to any other family,” Cynthia Gonzales said.

The suit claims Alex Gonzales was driving a rental car because he had wrecked his car during a previous accident while under the influence. But his parents said that was not true. His car was totaled, they said, when another driver smashed into him at a gas station.

The parents said they were devastated when they heard about the fatal accident.

“There are no words for it,” Greg Gonzales said. “It’s overwhelming and shocking and terrible.”

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune