Mom Says Heroin Addict Caused Fatal Crash

     SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (CN) – Just minutes after a doctor gave him an injection to treat his drug dependency, a heroin addict passed out behind the wheel of his car, veered into oncoming traffic and killed a teenager driving in the opposite direction, the teen’s mother claims in court.
     Jackson Garland, of Los Osos, was driving north at about 5:05 p.m. on June 18, 2014, when a southbound 2013 Dodge Charger swerved into his lane, the complaint filed in superior court states.
     Julie Stahl says Garland was unable to pull his 2001 Chevy Cavalier onto the shoulder of South Bay Boulevard, and he died at the scene of the head-on collision.
     Defendants to the April 29 action include the Dodge’s driver, Alexander Gonzales; San Luis Obispo County; and a doctor who was allegedly treating Gonzales for heroin dependence.
     In connection to the crash, Gonzales, 22, of Paso Robles, is currently in jail, charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury.
     The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office says Gonzales was driving under the influence of heroin and methamphetamine, but Gonzales has pleaded not guilty.
     A presentence report from the district attorney’s office quotes witnesses from the crash site as saying Gonzales had dry mouth, body tremors, dilated pupils and an elevated pulse – all symptoms of being under the influence.
     There were needle marks on his body, according to the prosecution report, which adds that police found a “hype kit” in Gonzales’ car that contained three used needles and two spoons that contained residue.
     While the prosecution’s report says Gonzales took heroin at 4 p.m. on June 18, an investigative report prepared by Gonzales’ criminal defense has another theory.
     Apparently Gonzales told an investigator he used drugs at 4 o’clock, but the defense claims he meant 4 in the morning.
     At 4 p.m., Gonzales was receiving treatment for his addiction at the office of Dr. Kenneth Starr, the defense’s report continues.
     Gonzales’ parents, Cynthia and Greg Gonzales, told the Tribune newspaper their son had visited Ken Starr Addiction Medicine Group close to 20 times.
     The day of the accident was allegedly the first time that this clinic treated Gonzales with Vivitrol, a drug that the Center for Behavioral Health says can help ease drug cravings by blocking opiods from acting on the receptors in the brain.
     Patients who have heroin in their system when they take Vivitrol can experience a loss of consciousness, Gonzales’ attorney, Darryl Genis, says.
     Court transcripts show that Darrell Mackinga, an officer with the California Highway Patrol, testified during a preliminary hearing that a witness to the crash saw Gonzales slumped over, apparently asleep.
     “That’s consistent with somebody who’s passed out,” Genis said at another court hearing in April.
     The prosecution, however, contends there’s no evidence to suggest that any drug other than heroin and methamphetamine caused the fatal crash.
     “The facts of their case are inconsistent with the evidence,” Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt told the Tribune last week.
     Garland’s mother Stahl says Starr’s office “failed to follow protocol and/or general practice and procedure in the administration of the Vivitrol for the first time.”
     Claiming that Gonzales received the Vivirtol shot just before 5 p.m., and that the accident occurred at 5:07 p.m., Stahl says, “Starr knew or should have known that Alex Gonzales was under the influence of drugs when leaving Starr’s office and thus should have prevented him from operating a vehicle and/or leaving the office.”
     According to the defense report, a staffer at Starr’s office told Gonzales’ parents their son did not look well after the shot.
     Starr did not respond to requests for comment.
     The defense report says Gonzales had been turned away for a previous Vivitrol injection after a urine test that Starr’s office administered showed he had recently taken opiates and meth.
     On June 18, however, he was not given a urine test, according to the report.
     Earlier in the day, Gonzales had gone to Cal Poly, where he worked as a custodian, then took off early for his doctor’s appointment.
     “Alex drove there fine,” Greg Gonzales told the Tribune. “He worked that day fine. … Then he’s not fine.”
     Stahl says Gonzales’ parents should not have let their son drive, knowing he was an addict.
     “They knew … or should have known that Alex Gonzales was an incompetent and unfit driver and would create an unreasonable risk of danger to persons and property on the public streets and highways,” the complaint states
     The defense report says Gonzales had used heroin up to three times a day for the past three or four years.
     Garland, who had graduated from high school two weeks before the crash, lived with his mother, according to the civil complaint.
     “Plaintiff loved Jackson more than anything in the universe,” the suit claims.
     She is represented by attorney Neil Tardiff.

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