I have been following the trial of U.S.A.F. Airman Calvin Cooper, charged with reckless driving, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide in the killing of Angelica Baca while she waited in the median to continue crossing Louisiana Blvd. in March 2019. I first came across the case as part of a crash report/investigation search of ABQ pedestrian fatality cases, and must report it perhaps the most disturbing one of all ~80 I looked into last year.
And when you’re talking pedestrian fatality crash reports, writing that one is “most disturbing” is saying something.
I’ve been following news reports and stopping myself from responding to statements reported at trial. Several times now. But this morning I read the following in Edmundo Carrillo’s recap of yesterday’s trial proceedings after noting that Airman Cooper has been deemed “negligent” in the case by prosecutors:
But Cooper’s defense attorney says Baca was the one acting negligently by not using a crosswalk the night she was killed.
With that defense attorney assertion, my self-enforced silence on this matter is over. I’ll keep it to only a couple of observations at this juncture:
- Much debate at trial is on the subject of how fast Airman Cooper was traveling when passing a car via the median on Louisiana near Ross. Crash reports and prosecutors estimate ~83 mph. Defense expert witness stated it was more like 58 mph. Well, the posted speed limit on this stretch of Louisiana is 35 mph. Driving approximately 23 mph over a 35 mph would seem to constitute “negligent.”
- Regarding Baca not using a crosswalk, there is the fact that no marked crosswalk exists on this stretch of Louisiana Blvd. for ~2,500 feet, all the way from Kathryn to the north and Gibson to the south.
Ross at Louisiana is right at smack-dab between Kathryn and Gibson, around 1,250 feet away from either crosswalk. At the standard walking speed used by traffic engineers of 3.5 feet per second, it takes someone about six minutes (357 seconds) to make it 1,250 feet. While we’re throwing around the term “negligent,” who is negligent in such a situation, the road user forced with the choice of ~12 minutes to go down one side of the street, cross, and go up the other side of the street, or road engineers, et. al., designing and implementing a road forcing such choices?
- Returning to estimated speed at impact, there’s a reason why this case and crash report/investigation might be the most disturbing of the 80 or so I read through last year. I’ve been repeatedly hesitant to quote much from the investigation, even going back to my original post on the case back in February of last year. But having defense attorneys assert that Angelica Baca was “negligent” has me thinking that honoring her memory is now best served by letting readers know just how horribly she was killed by Airman Cooper. Refraining from even more gruesome passages, I’ll just pass along this single sentence from the crash investigator’s initial report:
The report expands on this fact, and I’ll spare you those further details. As readers know, it’s very rare for any pedestrian fatality case to lead to charges of reckless driving, much less negligent homicide. There’s a reason Airman Cooper was charged and now stands trial, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to do with Angelica Baca being negligent.