APD officer driving 78-80 mph before deadly crash, no charges recommended

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque Police officer was driving double the speed limit seconds before his police cruiser collided with a family’s car, killing a 6-year-old child.

However, investigators aren’t recommending any charges against Officer Johnathan McDonnell, saying in part, the officer was “authorized to operate his vehicle in an emergency response.”

The new information comes as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department has concluded its investigation into the April crash at Eubank Boulevard and Indian School Road. The case is now being reviewed by Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.

READ: BCSO investigation synopsis on APD officer McDonnell crash

The crash killed 6-year old Joel Anthony Suina.

Suina’s mother, 30-year old Antoinette Suina, was also injured in the crash, along with her 9-year old daughter who suffered a pelvis fracture, lung, liver and kidney contusions and a head injury. McDonnell broke his femur, a foot and other bones in the crash.

Witness audio recording and hundreds of pages of documents were released Friday by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, which has been investigating the crash April 17, 2017.

“The little boy was non-responsive, we couldn’t’ get a pulse on him,” said Monica Cullins, a witness who immediately tried to help.

“I’m not used to little ones like that,” Cullins said to an investigating officer as she compared the crash scene to her experiences as a medical professional.

According to investigators, Albuquerque Police Officer Johnathan McDonnell was speeding at a rate of 78 to 80 miles per hour just seconds before the crash. Investigators say McDonnell’s police cruiser was driving north on Eubank Boulevard, which has a speed limit of 40 miles per hour.

APD says McDonnell was responding to a high priority call at a nearby Albertsons grocery store, where a man was said to be threatening people, armed with a machete.

Investigators say McDonnell’s cruiser hit Antoinette Suina’s car at 67 miles per hour. According to the crash report, McDonnell’s car computer indicated that he tried to brake and steer in the moments before the crash.

The crash was captured on surveillance video, showing the Suina family car make an eastbound turn across Eubank Boulevard as it was hit by McDonnell’s police car.

According to the crash report, investigators say both McDonnell and Suina had green lights. Traffic controls at the intersection indicate that Suina’s car should have yielded to the oncoming police car.

However, according to the report, Suina maintained across multiple interviews that she did not see McDonnell’s police car, hear sirens, or see police lights. Investigators say McDonnell was running both lights and sirens at the time of the crash.

In the report, investigators wrote, “Officer McDonnel was operating his vehicle at a speed to (sic.) fast for conditions at the time.”

However, the lead investigator, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy G. Gallegos, said, “I do not feel charges ware warranted at this time for either driver.”

Gallegos wrote, “Officer McDonnel was authorized to operate his vehicle in an emergency response.”

Investigators continued the explanation, writing:

I feel his (McDonnell’s) intentions were to proceed to the call in an expedited manner as to preserve the safety of human life. As stated in the call details that (“subject was swinging knife [machete] in direction of caller”). Witness accounts stated he was traveling at a high rate of speed, however there were no witness account stating he was driving in a manner as to be reckless (forcing vehicle off the roadway, weaving in and out of the lanes of travel, etc.) and he was not under the influence.

Deputy Gallegos also blamed the crash on the design of the Eubank and Indian School intersection, saying “the roadway and intersection make it hard to see oncoming vehicles in both directions (north and south on Eubank) when there are vehicles in the turn bays to proceed east and west.”

It’s unclear what McDonnell has said about the crash, at this point. According to the report, a statement from McDonnell’s attorney, John D’Amato, should be attached in the report. The page was omitted in the copy of the report that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department gave KRQE News 13.

The report also states that D’Amato told investigators that McDonnell would not be giving a “voluntary statement” to investigators.

The case has been forwarded to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office for review. That office will make the final determination about any charges.

KRQE News 13 reached out to Albuquerque Police on Friday night, asking about McDonnell’s status with the department. An APD spokeswoman did not responded by 10 p.m. At last check, the department said McDonnell was on administrative leave.

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