Police Pursuit Case Heads Back to Court after Judge Finds the SDPD Failed to Train Its Officers
Change for Justice explains why an appellate court allows the wrongful death trial for 23-year-old William Flores to move forward
SAN DIEGO, Oct. 20, 2022 — After months of legal wrangling, the Court of Appeal decides the negligence and wrongful death case resulting from a police pursuit can move forward. William Flores crashed and was killed after he was accused of running a stoplight. On her son’s passing, William’s mother, Patricia Flores said, “Losing my son at 23 is really hard. Since he has passed away, life has not been the same because part of my heart is missing. My son was just 23. He will never realize his dream of owning a home or having a family.”
William’s girlfriend, Angelica Sanchez, was riding on the back of his motorcycle when the fatal crash occurred. “The hardest part is he never got to live life. He was very happy, very caring. He went after his dreams. He woke up everyday with a smile on his face. He never knew what it was like to wake up in a bad mood.”
Angelica is still recovering from her injuries, both physical and emotional.
Fighting back the tears, she explains why she fears she’ll never fully recover. “It is very difficult years later. It takes its toll on me physically and I have anxiety and depression more than for me, I’m sad how much life meant for William. I’ll never get over it.”
Angelica is suing for negligence on the part of the officers for pursuing William when the officers’ policy—a balancing test—balanced against pursuing. “I don’t believe that it was right that he lost his life. I’m still here fighting for justice for taking a life and for their decision to gamble with mine. My daughter could have lost her mother when she was just six years old and for what? That is so scary to me!”
According to police reports, William was accused of running a stoplight that later led to a police pursuit and his fatal crash. In court filings, the City of San Diego claimed it was immune to liability for the deadly motorcycle accident that resulted from the police pursuit. A lower court agreed and the suit was dismissed.
Recently, the State of California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, decided that was an error because the City of San Diego failed to train its police officers in the manner required to obtain immunity. At the time of the crash, the San Diego Police Department had a written policy and procedures for preserving safety during vehicle pursuits. In order to qualify for immunity, the San Diego Police Department was required to train its officers for a minimum of a one-hour course on vehicle pursuits each year.
Attorneys for Flores and Sanchez agree the officers involved in the chase did not reach the minimum requirements threshold. Christina Denning, the attorney for Flores and Sanchez, and Founding Partner of Denning Moores, APC said, “This decision makes case law that will impact the lives of others for years to come. The City refused to provide evidence at the time of the hearing that immunity was appropriate. Now Flores and Sanchez will get their fair day in court before a jury.”
The Court of Appeal found the San Diego Police Department did not meet the requirements for immunity. “… the City failed to dispute the fact…that the training by the City consisted of a single video that was less than half the one-hour required duration.” The City argued the minimum time requirement should not apply.
William’s mother says she is nervous about going to court. She is not looking forward to having to go through a trial after all her family has had to cope with, but she is wiling to do what she has to do. She said, “I want to make sure other families don’t lose someone they love because they are accused of running a stoplight.”
Change for Justice
Change for Justice is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit in California. Change for Justice is empowering families going through legal challenges with education and inspiring long-term change through meaningful legislation.