Visalia family grieves after triple fatal chase and crash


According to her brother, Gloria Mendoza, her husband and 17-year-old son were likely heading off to grab something to eat, when a car deputies were chasing crashed into them. Now, the family is in agony over their deaths and wishing there could have been another way for law enforcement to catch the suspect.

This deadly scene shut down Caldwell Avenue at Akers for hours Thursday night. Tulare County Sheriff's Officers say 32-year-old Erick Head refused to pull over for a traffic violation on Highway 99 and sped away from the deputy onto Caldwell Avenue, heading towards Visalia.

The pursuit ended after investigators say Head crashed into a Chevy Impala, killing 54-year-old Gloria Mendoza, her husband Ruben Mendoza, and their son 17-year-old Ruben Mendoza Junior.

Police say Head's car had a trailer attached, which struck a white Volvo, travelling behind the Mendoza family. The people in the Volvo had minor injuries.

Richard Pena is Gloria Mendoza's brother and says their family is suffering. "They're devastated they're hurt it was a good family and that should have not happened."

The family lived just a couple blocks away from the intersection where they crashed. Gloria spent 16 years as a special education teacher's aide at Goshen Elementary School. Pena says Ruben Junior was a straight A student. He's still trying to understand why his family members had to die as a result of a sheriff's office pursuit.

Pena said, "I think they should have called off the pursuit maybe I thought that was the law. Maybe a helicopter find them or something some other means of catching them."

Sheriff's officials say the deputy's pursuit of the suspect and the crash, happened in a matter of minutes. They say a tragedy like this one could have happened to anyone, whether it involved a police pursuit or not.

Lt. Keith Douglass said. "But as part of our internal review administrative review process we will be looking to see if policies were followed, if the pursuit should have could have been terminated earlier."

Deputy is on paid administrative leave, while an internal investigation is conducted.

There was another person traveling in the suspect's car, a woman who was ejected in the crash. Officers don't anticipate she'll face any criminal charges.

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