NewsCovering Kern County


VIDEO: Coroner's office van swerves into oncoming traffic before driver's DUI arrest

Posted at 12:29 PM, Jun 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-19 15:29:25-04

New video shows an allegedly drunk Los Angeles County employee driving a coroner's office van as it was weaving in and out of traffic and nearly hitting oncoming vehicles.

Behind the wheel was Los Angeles County coroner's office supervisor Julie Kellerman, who was later arrested for driving under the influence, officials say.

The video shows the coroner's van switching into the oncoming lane to pass a tractor trailer and heading right into the path of oncoming traffic, forcing a truck to swerve onto the shoulder.

Video was also released of Kellerman's arrest in which she is seen struggling with an officer, who ultimately has to take her to the ground to place her into custody.

The incident happened in Kern County on June 1, 2016. But the video has just been made available. The incident is related to a larger ongoing lawsuit against the county involving the erroneous cremation of a body.

An attorney suing the county argues that when Kellerman was placed on leave after the arrest, it made the coroner's office even more short-staffed, resulting in the incorrect cremation.

"The snowball started when Julie Kellerman was arrested," said attorney Luis Carrillo. "Because she wasn't around, they were short on staff. This is what happens when you're short on staff. Then the staff that remains doesn't have a good eye and is negligent and permits these mistakes to go forward."

Carrillo represents the family of Jorge Hernandez, a 26-year-old whose body was cremated instead of being sent to the mortuary for viewing.

Hernandez died in 2016 after suffering a medical emergency along the side of the road in Glendale. His family wanted an autopsy done and his body was sent to the coroner's office. The family says the body was mixed up with another and cremated without the family's permission before they could hold a viewing.

The family is suing the county for negligence.

"It was bad enough that we lost him, you know, and then not being able to have, you know, that chance to say goodbye, it's like, when they told me that, it's like, 'OK, wait, they kind of killed him again,'" shared Hernandez's family member Mary Lou Diaz in an interview after his death.

Initially, Carrillo said, the coroner's officer apologized but now they're fighting the lawsuit, making the family endure hours of depositions.

Contacted on Tuesday, the coroner's office declined comment on both the Kellerman arrest, citing a personnel matter, and the pending litigation.

Story courtesy of ABC7.