A longtime California sheriff’s deputy was killed Sunday night as he raced to help colleagues pursue a suspected drunken driver who authorities say had at least five prior DUI arrests.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Antonio “Tony” Hinostroza, 45, died on his way to help Riverbank police officers apprehend a man who led them on a pursuit, Sheriff’s Office officials said. The deputy, who is survived by an adult son and his mother, was a 19-year veteran with the department.
Hinostroza was also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, during which time he worked security for naval intelligence, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.
“He served his country honorably,” Christianson said. “(He) was discharged and became a deputy sheriff with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office in 1999.”
Over the nearly two decades of his career, he served as a patrol deputy, K-9 handler, gang detective, SWAT team member, and field training officer. Christianson said Hinostroza served the people of the county well.
“This is, as you might imagine, yet another tragedy for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office, and certainly a tragedy that affects our law enforcement family, as well as the family of Deputy Tony Hinostroza,” Christianson said during a media briefing Monday.
Officials said that Riverbank police officials received a call shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday about a driver passed out behind the wheel of a silver Cadillac Escalade. As deputies arrived, the man awoke and fled in the SUV.
The driver, later identified as Jonathan Carrillo-Gonzales, 30, of Modesto, was stopped when deputies deployed spike strips at an intersection in Modesto, disabling his vehicle, police officials said.
Carrillo-Gonzales got out of the vehicle and began fighting with deputies, who used a bean bag gun to subdue him and take him into custody.
The suspect, whose driver’s license was suspended in June for drunken driving, is charged with driving under the influence, felony evasion, and resisting arrest, a news release said.
“(Carrillo-Gonzales) has had five prior arrests for DUI, he’s done state prison time for DUI, and our team was intent on removing a drunk driver from the road to protect innocent people from being harmed or killed as a result of this individual,” Christianson said.
As deputies were dealing with Carrillo-Gonzales’ arrest, dispatchers learned of Hinostroza’s crash.
“Dispatch began getting 911 calls of a Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle crashed into a power pole at Terminal Avenue and Claribel Road,” the news release said. “(California Highway Patrol), deputies, ambulance and fire responded to the scene in an attempt to rescue Deputy Hinostroza, but he died of his injuries at the scene.”
Christianson said Hinostroza died on impact. The sheriff also said Carrillo-Gonzales should never have been on the street.
“He should still be in prison, he never should have been released from prison, but unfortunately we release people who are a danger to society and this is the result, this is what happens,” Christianson said. “When law enforcement tries to intercede to protect the community, they place themselves at risk.”
ABC 10 in Sacramento reported that witnesses to the crash that killed Hinostroza described it as one of the most horrific crashes they’ve ever seen. Photos of Hinostroza’s patrol car showed it wrapped around a traffic light pole, all but one wheel suspended in the air.
The intersection where he was killed was closed for several hours as the accident was investigated. Residents visited the site of the deadly crash Monday, leaving behind candles, flowers and a flag meant for a fallen officer.
Christian Contreras told the news station that he was waiting for the light to change at the intersection when he witnessed Hinostroza’s crash. Contreras said Hinostroza was speeding down Claribel Road when his patrol car appeared to hit the railroad tracks and blow a tire.
“He was the only car. He wasn’t chasing anyone. No one was behind him or in front of him. No cars were coming the opposite direction,” Contreras said. “He lost control and hit this pole right here at full speed.”
Contreras and other bystanders raced to help the deputy, who they called out to over the blare of his horn, which began sounding upon impact.
“We were trying to yell at him, ‘Hey, hey,’ trying to get something back,” Contreras said.
They got no response, the witness told ABC 10. As they waited for paramedics to arrive, they roped off the intersection with a roll of police tape that fell from the deputy’s trunk.
“Couldn’t turn our head and look away,” Contreras said. “I would regret it my whole life.”
Contreras said the crash that took Hinostroza’s life is something no one should ever witness. He had a message of comfort for the fallen deputy’s family.
“I just want his family to know that he wasn’t alone in his last moments,” a tearful Contreras said.
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