Horse killed, rider's bizarre plan leads to DUI & animal cruelty charges

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A car hit and killed a horse at an intersection near Calwa a couple years ago, but a drunk driving investigation didn't point to the car's driver. It landed the horse's owner in jail.

Gabriel Garcia walked out of the Fresno County courthouse on crutches Friday.

Acquaintances say he's still nursing an injury from the day in December 2019 when he allegedly got drunk, hopped on his horse, rode into traffic and got the horse killed.

Garcia is in court because he's charged with DUI and animal cruelty.

"I think the whole thing is really unusual, of course, riding a horse and they get you for a DUI," said legal analyst Ralph Torres. "The cruelty to the animal, I can see that simply because you put the animal in a bad spot."

Court documents reveal the 51-year-old told some people he thought drivers went too fast on North Ave.

The solution he came up with was to ride his black horse onto the road on a very dark night.

One car slowed down for him, but the next driver told police he never saw the horse or Garcia until he hit them at the intersection of North and Peach.

One witness told Action News the horse essentially exploded. He thought Garcia was dead, too, but the rider survived with a broken leg and went to Community Regional Medical Center for treatment.

His blood alcohol content at the time measured at least .16%, twice the legal limit for drivers.

But was he a driver?

Torres says a defense attorney might argue he wasn't.

"A horse is not a vehicle," he said a defense attorney could claim. "It's not a motor vehicle, so how does riding a horse mean you're driving a vehicle?"

California law does require people riding animals to follow the rules of the road, and CHP officers say that includes drinking and driving laws.

Torres says Garcia clearly put drivers and the horse at risk, but he wonders how serious the crime really is.

"This is not the type of case where you saddle someone with a felony crime," he said. "It's a shame the animal was lost, but at most this is a misdemeanor."

The county installed a four-way stop at North and Peach not long after the collision.

Attorneys may be close to working out a deal in the case but for now, Garcia is due back in court next month.
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