Thursday, November 17, 2011

2 Goodyear police officers cleared in fatal hit-run probe

Goodyear officials announced Monday two police officers accused of misconduct in a fatal 2008 hit-and-run investigation will not face criminal charges and that a police vehicle involved in the incident has been cleared of causing the teen's fatal injuries.

A letter from the Arizona Attorney General's Office dated Oct. 19 said the office would not pursue criminal charges against Det. Anna Ybarra or Sgt. Deron Miller because "no reasonable basis, factually, or legally, exists to justify or support criminal charges of Obstruction of Justice, Hindering Prosecution, or any other criminal offense," according to the document obtained by The Republic.

Michael Benchoff, the senior litigation counsel who wrote the letter, also said he did not believe "any jury would find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, if in fact they had been charged." He based his decision on a review of a Department of Public Safety criminal investigation into the officers' conduct.

An independent investigation into the Goodyear Police Department's handling of the hit-and-run released in March concluded Miller hindered the investigation by not informing investigating officers that Goodyear Officer Bradley Hardin may have been involved. It also said Ybarra obstructed justice when she called Hardin two days later to tell him officers were coming to his house to seize his vehicle.

Goodyear officials also said Hardin's police car has been ruled out as the vehicle that caused 18-year-old Jered Pendleton's fatal injuries by a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office evidence examination.

According to an evidence comparison outlined in the MCSO examination report, bolts from the car's undercarriage were a different size than injury patterns found on Pendleton's body. The comparison also ruled out a GMC tow truck because the bolts were a different size and shape.

Bolts from a Chevrolet pickup truck also were compared and had a similar shape and size but could not be identified or excluded as a match because there wasn't enough detail in the injury pattern, the report states.
No arrests have been made in Pendleton's death and the case remains open.

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