Case dropped in fatal Highway 64 collision
Administrative investigation still ongoing
WILLIAMS - Williams Police Officer Brandon Hernandez, 25, will return to work this week following a decision by the Coconino County Attorney's Office to drop a manslaughter charge filed against him. Hernandez was charged with the offense following a fatal May 20 collision that took the life of 46-year-old James A. Innes of Mesa. The accident occurred at roughly 5:45 p.m. near milepost 185 on Highway 64.
According to Williams Police Chief Herman Nixon, Hernandez will now return to active duty, though results of an administrative investigation remain ongoing. Hernandez remained on office duty during the Department of Public Safety investigation.
"He'll be returning back to patrol this week," Nixon said, adding that he expects the administrative investigation to be complete within one to two months. Depending on the results of that investigation, Hernandez could face disciplinary action if any wrongdoing on his part is determined.
"The (investigation) entails seeing if the officer violated polices and procedures," Nixon said.
According to a report issued by the Coconino County Attorney's Office on Aug. 26, no evidence was found indicating that criminal conduct was a factor in the operation of Hernandez's marked sport utility vehicle (SUV), nor did drugs, alcohol, fatigue or recklessness play a factor. The report was declined for prosecution due to an insufficient legal/factual basis.
Hernandez was driving a 2006 marked police four-door sport utility vehicle during the May 20 incident that took the life of Innes. Innes was operating a 1999 Harley Davidson motorcycle at the time of the collision and was reported to have been wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Innes was pronounced dead at the scene due to the nature of the collision. Hernandez was transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment following the incident. He was reported to have been wearing safety restraints.
According to the Coconino County Attorney's Office report, Hernandez was traveling northbound on Highway 64 when he initiated a U-turn in order to cite a speeding southbound vehicle. Innes collided with the marked SUV as it turned, according to the report. Conflicting accounts, however, were reported in the case, particularly as to whether or not the marked SUV crossed both the north and south bound lane from the shoulder of the road or whether it was already in the north bound lane. Hernandez stated he never saw a motorcycle, even after checking his mirrors, and initiated the U-turn from the northbound lane, according to the report.