Crime

Driver in fatal Los Osos crash was heroin addict, report says

One of three cars involved in a fatal crash Wednesday, June 18, on South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos.
One of three cars involved in a fatal crash Wednesday, June 18, on South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A Paso Robles man charged with causing a fatal crash in Los Osos last summer had been taking medicine for heroin addiction for a year, according to a document filed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. But Alexander Gonzales admitted to shooting up with heroin and methamphetamine within an hour before the crash, the document notes.

Gonzales, 22, has been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence for allegedly causing a June 18 accident that killed 18-year-old Jackson Garland.

Gonzales appeared in court Wednesday on a defense motion to dismiss the DUI charge. That hearing was postponed until April 23.

A detailed look at the case, however, appears in a document filed in January by the District Attorney’s Office. That report was prepared in the event that a plea deal might be reached.

Gonzales has pleaded not guilty, and the case is currently proceeding toward a trial.

The fatal crash occurred on South Bay Boulevard around 5:07 p.m. June 18.

According to the statement filed by the District Attorney’s Office, the following occurred:

Gonzales was driving north in a rented 2013 Dodge Charger while Garland was driving south in a 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier. Witnesses said Gonzales was driving erratically and weaving “all over the road” for about 10 seconds before the crash. At least three drivers took evasive action in order to avoid getting hit.

During the five seconds before the crash, a CHP report stated, Gonzales accelerated from 62 mph to 73 mph in a 55 mph speed zone and never used his brakes.

After the crash, witnesses at the scene, including a State Parks ranger, said Gonzales was nodding off and that his eyes were rolling back in his head.

After Gonzales was taken to a hospital, he allegedly told CHP Officer J. McEwen he had injected drugs into his right hand. He allegedly told the officer he was an addict and should not have been driving.

“He remembered driving for a few minutes and then fell asleep and crashed,” Deputy District Attorney Sandra Mitchell wrote in the court document.

McEwen allegedly found a “hype kit” in Gonzales’ car, with three used needles and two spoons that contained residue.

CHP officers said they observed needle marks on Gonzales’ right hand and forearms. They also said that Gonzales nodded off and had mumbled speech, dry mouth, body tremors, dilated pupils and an elevated pulse.

Garland was alive immediately after the crash but died shortly afterward from traumatic aortic rupture and blunt force trauma.

When hospital staff tried to draw blood from Gonzales, they had to draw from his foot because his arm veins had collapsed from drug use, according to hospital staffers.

Blood samples taken at the hospital contained methamphetamine and morphine.

Medical records show Gonzales had been taking suboxone and vivitrol, both used to combat heroin addiction. Gonzales took vivitrol on June 18, the prosecution report notes, though it is not known if he took suboxone.

Medical records show that Gonzales had been counseled about the effects of heroin use at an addiction treatment facility. Two witnesses from that facility told police that patients are advised that if they drive while intoxicated on drugs, they could kill someone.

Despite all the warnings, the report said, Gonzales drove, knowing he shouldn’t have.

“The defendant’s ‘high’ was more important to him than the victim’s life,” Mitchell wrote.

According to the report, the prosecution will recommend a six-year prison term for Gonzales, who has no prior record.

The defense motion, filed by attorney Darryl Genis, contends that the prosecution cannot file both manslaughter and DUI charges together because it represents double jeopardy. The motion also alleged that blood evidence was obtained without a warrant, violating the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

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