Thursday, 26 January 2023

Report finds officer at fault for collision

Image
Det. Richard Towle's car after the Friday crash. Photo courtesy of Clearlake Police.


 

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH INFORMATION ABOUT BILLINGS AND OFFICER.

 

CLEARLAKE – An investigation into a Friday crash involving an officer on his way to a call has ruled that the officer was at fault, according to a Monday report.


Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police reported that the agency concluded its look into the crash, which took place at the intersection of Highway 53 and Lakeshore Drive Friday night. The report also was reviewed by the California Highway Patrol's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team.


The Friday crash involved Det. Richard Towle and 19-year-old Desiree Perez of Kelseyville, as Lake County News first reported over the weekend.


Towle was responding from the area of 40th Avenue with lights and sirens to an emergency call in which an individual was threatening to kill an off-duty police officer, said Hermann.


When Towle came to the intersection at Highway 53 he was hit by Perez, driving southbound on Highway 53 in her Honda Civic, said Hermann.


Sgt. Tim Celli has passed through the intersection ahead of Towle, said Hermann.


Perez and another vehicle traveling towards the intersection had reportedly slowed for Celli's patrol vehicle, but then accelerated again after he cleared the intersection, according to witness statements, Hermann reported.


Because of “natural vision obscurements” at the intersection, Perez and other southbound vehicles were unable to see Towle's patrol vehicle until he actually entered the intersection, according to Hermann.


After seeing each other's vehicle, both drivers attempted to avoid a collision but were unable to, said Hermann. Perez's vehicle struck the passenger side of Towle's patrol car, causing major damage to both vehicles.


Both Towle and Perez were transported to Redbud Hospital where they were treated for minor injuries and released, Hermann said.


Hermann reported that, while section 21056 of California Vehicle Code states that the "driver of an emergency vehicle is exempt from the rules of the road while responding to an emergency," it also states that drivers of emergency vehicles need to drive with "due regard" for the safety of all persons using the highway.


The department's investigation concluded that Towle failed to ensure that all cross traffic had come to a stop or that it was clear to enter the intersection against the red light, according to Hermann.


As a result, Hermann said the investigation ruled that Towle was at fault for the collision.


Regarding the reason for the emergency response, Hermann reported that Scott Billings, 24, of Clearlake was arrested for public intoxication.


Billings, who was known to the department, had been making some threats outside the home of Officer Tim Hobbs, said Hermann. It was determined that Billings was too intoxicated to properly care for himself, and he was transported to the Lake County Jail.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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