Friday, September 25, 2015

IMPD Officer Strikes And Kills Pedestrian, Alcohol Impairment Suspected

UPDATED: An off-duty, 7-year IMPD veteran police officer has struck and killed a pedestrian on E. Southport Road. The accident happened just before midnight last night. Police say a 911 call had been placed of a pedestrian walking in the street. A few minutes later, the off-duty police officer struck and killed the pedestrian with his police cruiser.

When other police officers responded to the scene, they found the officer attempting to render first-aid to the victim. Investigating officers noticed the smell of alcohol on the off-duty police officer's breath. The department's fatal alcohol team and DUI unit were then called to the scene. The officer was transported to Eskenazi Hospital at 1:30 a.m. where his blood was drawn to be tested. Police told the Indianapolis Star the blood test was performed within the 3-hour limit permitted by law.

IMPD has identified the officer as Bernado Zavalza, who has been suspended and placed on administrative leave. The department has a zero-tolerance police for operating a police-issued vehicle while under the influence of alcohol regardless of whether an officer is on or off-duty. The prosecutor's office has not made any charging decisions at this time.

This latest alcohol-related crash involving an IMPD officer is the second within a week and at least the tenth such incident within the past two years. Officer Daniel Greenwell crashed his personal vehicle 3:20 a.m. last Sunday morning. He had a female passenger in his car at the time. Officer Greenwell tested positive for an alcohol level of at least .08 but less than .15. He was placed on leave without pay.

Here's a press release issued by IMPD shortly before noon identifying the police officer:
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department expresses our sincere condolences to the victim’s family as a result of last night’s fatal accident. Currently, IMPD has a very strict alcohol policy in place, and officers are expected to strictly adhere to this policy. The off-duty officer has been identified as Bernardo Zavalza. Officer Zavalza is a seven-year veteran of IMPD and is assigned to the Northwest District. Officer Zavalza is currently on administrative leave, and his police powers were immediately suspended. Officer Zavalza is prohibited from performing any functions that require police powers. Investigators are conducting a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding last night’s accident. Once the investigation is complete, the case will be referred to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration of criminal charges.
The victim has now been identified as 53-year old Ronny Bowling. News reports don't indicate whether he was a local resident or someone just passing through.

WTHR has some more facts that are very favorable to the police officer about the circumstances of the pedestrian being in the street at the time his car struck him, including street lights in the area being out at the time:
Officers said that they were already on their way to the scene before the crash even happened because another driver had called in saying a man was walking in the middle of the road.
"I lay on my horn, swerved out of the way; he doesn't flinch, doesn't move a muscle, just keeps on walking," said Adam Goff, the 911 caller. "I was thinking, 'If this guy stays in the middle of the road, he's going to get hit'." . . . 
Two street lights in the area of the crash were not working at the time of the crash. In fact, they still were not working when Eyewitness News returned to the scene 24 hours later. Not only would that have made the entire area much darker, the victim was said to be wearing dark clothing at the time, making him even harder to see. "It was pretty dark. I could barely see him even when he was in my headlights," added Goff. 
The Department of Public Works told Eyewitness News it pays IPL to maintain those street lights. IPL said they were checking into the issue.
WTHR also says the blood alcohol test for the police officer registered only .02, well below the legal limit; however, the length of time IMPD waited to have the officer tested raises further questions about their intentions. Police waited 2 hours and 45 minutes before testing the officer's blood.
When Zavalza's tests came back, he had tested .02 for blood alcohol level. However, police did not take him from the scene to the hospital for those blood tests until around 2 hours and 45 minutes after the accident happened.
"By law, we have three hours from when a crash happened to conduct a DUI investigation. We are still, as we speak, standing here right now in that three-hour window," Riddle told media gathered at the scene shortly after the crash.
So Zavalza should not face any criminal charges. His only problem is going to be the department's zero-tolerance policy, which prohibits him from driving his police-issued vehicle with an alcohol level of more than .02. Since he's not over .02, he would appear to be in the clear.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It has gotten out of control, this privilege of city employees. They get cars, paid for by us. But they drink in them anyway. Whether there are rules or not. The Mayor gets almost carte blanche to do business on behalf of the city. But he breaks laws anyway. He breaks the letter of the law. And he breaks the spirit of the law. When the city council tries to cut off his money, he swipes it from other accounts. “Discretionary” accounts. We are too lax. There is little oversight. We whistle blow, but to no avail, because the prosecutors make political calculations. They don’t operate by the strict letter of the law. There is a married cop. He is banging a tenant of mine. He comes over, parks his squad car in the yard, and stays as long as he likes. I have asked him nicely to stop parking in my grass. There is a driveway. There is plenty of street parking. But he feels the privilege to do as he pleases. He drives up in my lawn near her door. Swaggers in. Does his business. And leaves. He knows I don’t approve of his parking, but he doesn’t care. There is another house I own on Bosart. I have complained that a neighbor has thrown old beds and trash all over the back yard, that its the most disgusting house in the whole neighborhood. Weeks pass and none of their trash goes in the trash can. They throw it on a burn pile that they never seem to burn. But the health department does nothing. I personally know three neighbors who have called the health dept and zoning compliance to get something done. Nothing. Its privilege. They feel privileged to ignore us. We pay our taxes. But they don’t care. The Mayor talks about his Maryor’s Action Center. And I have known it to work on occasion. But why not on Bosart. Do they only care about issues in prominent neighborhoods. Our park needs work. But they want to spend millions and millions on Tarkington Park because the Meridian Kessler people pass by it and want to use it. They show poor black people on the news broadcasts, as if the millions spent are for their use of the park, but no. Its all about privilege. So don’t act like this police officer is unusual being drunk in his free car. Because they don’t seem to care about the rules. Who do we see about that?

Anonymous said...

"IMPD has not yet identified the officer."

Unacceptable. This is the government. The media should be going wall to wall with demands that IMPD release the name of the killer cop.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Hold on. They plan to announce his identity later today. They haven't identified the victim yet either.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell if Anon 6:42's comment is a tirade against the mayor, a tirade against the police department or just a tirade in general. I have often found that those that help themselves tend to resolve things a bit better. With that said, we do know that the protocols put in place are at work from the Bisard craziness, so proper steps are being taken. It is highly likely this officer will be terminated because of his use of an official vehicle (and past history). So Anon 6:42 you may just get the "vengeance" for which you ask. Now if you could just get the mayor!

Anonymous said...

In a free country, the release of the truth isn't managed for political calculation and advantage.

Anonymous said...

people walking in the street get struck and killed probably every day in this country and it isn't always a criminal incident. it is not against the law to have alcohol on your breath. it IS against the law (per se) to be operating at .08 BAC or higher. no one is reporting that, yet.

it IS against IMPD General Order to be operating a city vehicle with any trace of alcohol in your system. the officer in question will soon be without a job. that does not equate to him breaking the law.

maybe he was. time will tell.

why not write your blog more like a lawyer and choose your words more carefully? what evidence do you have that he was legally impaired? i have just read the police release and nowhere is impairment suggested.

it has been reported that at least one sfst was administered. the results of that/those test(s) were not reported. state law requires that a chemical test for intoxication be given in fatal/sbi accidents so you can't read too much into impd following the requirement of state law. those results are pending.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Anon. 8:27, There is nothing in my blog post that wasn't communicated to the media by the police spokesperson and reported elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

so you constantly complain about the media regurgitating impd news releases but yet you are free to do the same?

all i am asking is that you use your law degree and experience to add some knowledge and value. i have a higher standard for you like you do the police.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Your issue is with IMPD's transparency in investigating and reporting of facts to the public in this particular case. You might not like them, but those are the facts.

c. roger csee said...

I know it's no excuse, but these men & women are under TREMENDOUS pressure to do their jobs without the proper number to do it quickly, efficiently, and correctly.

The vast majority of them have the job because they want to help the public. But after getting worn down with 6 straight days or nights of dealing with their "clientele" they sometimes need a release.

They have days off cancelled because of "special events" where we provide free protection for the multi-millionaires that run this city's sports palaces. They work overtime to make up for lack of personnel. By the time they get a day off, they are emotionally & physically worn out.

Unfortunately, some use alcohol as that release, and this is the result.

The "command staff" is more worried about an officer's 10 year-old tattoo being visible to the public than they are about an officer's physical & mental condition.

Am I qualified to make these statements? I don't know. But I know I was on-the-job here for 37 years, so I do know a little of what I speak.

Anonymous said...

who between Curry's office and/or the cops will eff this case up?

Bob Sharpe said...

As an advocate for active transportation issues including walking and cycling, I know first hand how difficult it is to e a pedestrian in Indianapolis. Our culture devalues those who either choose to walk or cycle or have no other choice. This is true most everywhere in America, but it is more prevalent here than it is many places. There is a scary entitlement mentality among many motorists that suggests that somehow we deserve to be run over simply because we "wear dark clothes" and "walk in the street", never mind that there is no accommodation for us at all across large swaths of this city. This needs to change, and it needs to start with those who are responsible for enforcing the law. Please don't misunderstand where I'm coming from. I'm not interested in telling anyone how to live or how to move around. I am interested in people showing a modicum of respect to those of us who choose differently than they do. Yes, I know we slow you down, but so do trucks, buses and that teenager texting at the green light. Heck, sometimes you slow me down...believe it or not. I also know that we sometimes break the law. So do you. We can all do better. It is incredibly discouraging and disheartening to read these stories. It is even more so when the people doing the killing are the very people who are sworn to serve and protect. It needs to change. Respectfully...

Anonymous said...

here are some more facts, gary as reported by wthr:

"When Zavalza's tests came back, he had tested .02 for blood alcohol level."

"Officers said that they were already on their way to the scene before the crash even happened because another driver had called in saying a man was walking in the middle of the road.

"I lay on my horn, swerved out of the way; he doesn't flinch, doesn't move a muscle, just keeps on walking," said Adam Goff, the 911 caller. "I was thinking, 'If this guy stays in the middle of the road, he's going to get hit'."

"Blood alcohol level is not the only factor investigators have to consider, though. Two street lights in the area of the crash were not working at the time of the crash. In fact, they still were not working when Eyewitness News returned to the scene 24 hours later. Not only would that have made the entire area much darker, the victim was said to be wearing dark clothing at the time, making him even harder to see.

"It was pretty dark. I could barely see him even when he was in my headlights," added Goff."

http://www.wthr.com/story/30112969/pedestrian-struck-on-far-south-side-of-indianapolis

this could have happened to anybody driving home, legally, after consuming a couple of drinks at dinner. the ONLY news here is that the ofc violated a zero-tolerance impd policy.

Anonymous said...

c roger csee, I think when all of us dial 911 we do expect the police to show up and help. I am impressed that men and women step up and say, "I will rush in when something is wrong". With that said, there is an unspoken responsibility of the individuals who take this career path. Pilots and doctors are other professions that come to mind where you expect them to be something above reproach.

Now, with all of that said, from all the reports, and as 7:28 pm points out, this guy was walking in the middle of the street wearing dark clothes with little lights.

Sadly, this police officer was the one to hit him. Terrible.

I appreciate the police and everything they do. There are bad apples everywhere, and I do not think this police officer fits that bill at all. I have called the police several times since living in Indy and I have always appreciated their professionalism and concern. We do need to support our police rather than just tear them down all the time.

Anonymous said...

So the cops wait until the tail end of the 3-hour limit before drawing this officer's blood? I'm betting they wouldn't wait that long to test me if I got stopped for drunk driving.

c. roger csee said...

Thank you, Anon 8:31 AM, for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Once again, the oinks look out for themselves and their 1% masters and impart their perverted sense of "justice" on the rest of us. They waited until as much alcohol seeps out of their colleague's bloodstream then take the test. Not even drunk enough to arrest a commercial trucker (.04)

Speaking of the bacon squad, down in Lawrence County a child raping town marshal was let off with a slap on the hand by getting probation for a few months instead of imprisonment by pleading down to "material inappropriate for a minor" - that sounds like the deal Jared got for peddling in child porn. The pigs protect their own and the just as crooked judges back them up. Anyone up for some vigilante justice?