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.