Sheriff Reacts To Deputy Accident That Kills Two Pedestrians

Family Reacts Over Loss Of Loved Ones

Many questions remain unanswered regarding last Friday's accident in which two people were hit and killed by a deputy.

Twenty-four-year-old Daniel Hiler and 30-year-old Chrystal Jolley were killed when a patrol car driven by deputy John Swearengin hit them at the intersection of Norris Road and Diana Drive.

Witnesses have said Swearengin was driving at a high rate of speed and that his emergency lights and siren were not activated at the time of the accident.

Few details have come from the sheriff's department or the California Highway Patrol, which is investigating the accident.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood held a press conference Monday and did confirm that Swearengin was headed to a call-out of a stolen vehicle at the Hampton Inn Hotel near Meadows Field when the accident occurred.

Youngblood was asked several other questions about the accident, but he cited investigative or legal reasons for not being able to answer them.

Some of those questions included; How fast Swearengin driving? Were his emergency lights or siren on? Were his headlights on? Was he talking on his cellphone? And was there a drug or alcohol screen conducted?

"Whether it was a deputy or a civilian involved in an accident, it is troubling to everyone. It is troubling to me as the sheriff and to the people in the community," said Youngblood.

Youngblood release his department's policies on emergency driving.

It says; in general, red lights and siren use are limited to emergency situations and pursuits, and the final responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle will rest with the deputy operating the vehicle.

Deputy Swearengin is on paid administrative leave. The CHP says its investigation of the case could take several weeks and Youngblood says he expects the report would be sent to the district attorney for review.

Family members of the victims who were killed are also waiting for those answers. About 40 friends and family were at Cope's Food Fair on Norris Road where they are holding a car wash to raise money for funeral services.

A community still reeling after the loss, came by to get their car washed or either donate funds.

Jimmy Clevenger, Jolley's father was at the car wash Monday and said he is still in shock.

"I was at home on Friday night working on my car when someone came running over and told me that a deputy ran over my daughter in the street. I ran down here, I was very upset," said Clevenger.

On Friday night, tensions ran high as the two bodies lay in the street. Deputies arrested several of the victim’s relatives.

"The next thing I know, they had me by the neck and threw me to the ground and said I resisted arrest. My daughter was dead in the street and it was their fault," said Clevenger.

Family members say they were very upset because they lost their loved ones and the deputy was able to go home.

"They didn't take the cop to jail, he was not detained, but one of our family is dead we were taken to jail, that is a travesty," said Claudette Whiler, Jolley's cousin.

Other family members say they question the deputies driving techniques.

"Where was his train of thought while he was behind the wheel? If it was too dark and you are traveling faster than you have control of the vehicle, something is wrong," said Valorie McDonald Jolley's aunt.

McDonald added that Kern County should reevaluate policies when it comes to law enforcement going code while driving near neighborhoods.

Eye witnesses say the deputy was driving in an unsafe manner whether he was going to a call or not.

"If he was on a way to a call, he should of (sic) had his lights on, especially if it was too dark. They are here to serve and protect and that's not what happened," said Christina Alvarez, witness.

"He did not have his lights or sirens on. I hope they investigate the accident thoroughly without favor. This will be very hurtful to the community if he gets a slap on the hand, if he walks, it will be a slap in the face to us in the community," said Megan Ussery, witness.

All family members that were arrested were released several hours later.

Funeral services for Jolley are set for Thursday, and services for Hiler are still pending. Copes Food Fair on Norris Road is accepting donations for anyone wishing to help with funeral expenses.

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