BAKERSFIELD, CA - A Kern County Sheriff's deputy charged with hitting and killing two pedestrians in Oildale, had been warned by the Sheriff's Department that unsafe driving jeopardized not only his life, but the lives of the citizens he protects, including his fellow deputies.
At a preliminary hearing Thursday, Prosecutor Michael Yraceburn said the warning came three months before the fatal crash.
Yraceburn said Deputy John Swearengin was warned about the consequences of unsafe driving on September 16, 2011, after scratching his patrol car while speeding through a U-turn.
On December 16, 2011, Highway Patrol investigators said Swearengin was speeding without his emergency lights or sirens on, when he hit and killed Chrystal Clevenger and Daniel Hiler, as they pushed a small motorbike across Norris Road.
"This is a horrible tragedy, but it's an accident and we hope to convey that to the community," said Bill Hadden, Defense Attorney.
"The gross negligence of Deputy John Swearengin caused the deaths of those two individuals," said Yraceburn.
On Thursday, Yraceburn called on three members of the Highway Patrol's Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team to testify.
"The evidence introduced today presented various options and showed that if he had been driving the speed limit, the collision would not have occurred," explained Yraceburn.
Yraceburn said Swearengin's warning shows the deputy knew about the consequences of unsafe driving and was negligent in the crash. Defense Attorney David Torres argued the warning was irrelevant to the case.
"He scratched his vehicle while on the job and he was slapped on the hand and told to be careful while he's driving and he had to take a Driver's Ed class. That was about it," said Torres.
Judge H.A. Staley ruled the warning is relevant, as it would be in a D.U.I. case where someone is warned about the consequences of drinking and driving. Staley ruled there is enough evidence for Swearengin to stand trial.
Swearengin is charged with two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter. He is due back in court May 13th.