The victims of a 2018 car chase that ended in a fatal crash near Refugio State Beach have sued the city of Lompoc and California Highway Patrol for failing to detain the suspect before she got behind the wheel.
Brett and Sarah Bronstad and Jessica and Michael Garcia filed the lawsuit Oct. 4 in Santa Barbara Superior Court, alleging negligence and negligent supervision and training.
The Garcias are suing on behalf of their late father, Michael Garcia, who was killed in the crash. They also seek damages for wrongful death.
Mr. Bronstad claims he suffered extensive injuries from the crash and his wife seeks damages for loss of their marital relationship.
CHP Officer Kevin McCool is also personally named as a defendant.
At around 4 p.m. on Oct. 1, 2018, Lompoc Police Department officers responded to a domestic disturbance at the apartment of 24-year-old Dinara Arevalo, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs say Ms. Arevalo’s family told officers she was suffering from a mental episode and brandishing a knife. Officers found her to be “very agitated and disorganized,” the lawsuit claims. Officers determined Ms. Arevalo required mental health services and was a danger to herself, but the lawsuit claims they allowed her to walk away and did not attempt to detain her until she got in her car and fled the scene.
“Lompoc Police failed to take appropriate steps to detain her, as they should have done and were allowed to do by law, before she left their presence,” read the lawsuit.
At around 4:47 p.m. officers alerted the CHP of the pursuit and informed them Ms. Arevalo was in a “distressed mental state,” plaintiffs claim.
Officer McCool had an opportunity to disable Ms. Arevalo’s car from a traffic monitoring spot on Highway 1 but choose to pursue her on the highway instead, the lawsuit alleges.
“McCool was trained or should have been trained to deploy a spike strip under the circumstances, as a safe alternative measure on a roadway with little to no traffic … but made the decision nevertheless to follow behind Arevalo after she passed him,” read the lawsuit.
Ms. Arevalo eventually struck a truck driven by Mr. Bronstad on southbound Highway 101 near Refugio State Beach.
Plaintiffs say both Mr. Bronstad and Mr. Garcia were wearing seatbelts, but still suffered extensive injuries. They allege Ms. Arevalo clipped the rear bumper of the truck causing both vehicles to spin off the road.
Mr. Garcia died of his injuries on Oct. 11, 2018.
On Oct. 16, 2018 the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office charged Ms. Arevalo with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and evading an officer causing death with a special allegation for infliction of great bodily injury. She is not a defendant in the civil lawsuit.