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Officer’s driving history included previous crashes

Joel Anthony, 6, with his sister Ariana, 9

Joel Anthony, 6, with his sister Ariana, 9. Both children were critically injured in a crash with a police officer on April 17. Joel later died. (Courtesy of Leah Nielsen)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Police Department officer whose cruiser collided with a woman’s car last month, killing her 6-year-old son and critically injuring her 9-year-old daughter, has been disciplined in at least six driving-related incidents during his nine years on the force, according to records obtained by the Journal.

They include what appear to be five preventable crashes and one unauthorized pursuit, which occurred less than a year ago.

Last month, Officer Johnathan McDonnell was involved in a high-profile and tragic crash while responding to reports of a teenager wielding a machete at a Northeast Heights grocery store. He crashed into Antoinette Suina, who made a left turn in front of his vehicle, according to police. Suina had her two children in the car.

One of Suina’s children, Joel Anthony Suina, 6, died after being placed on life support.

Her daughter, Ariana, had broken bones and underwent surgery, family members say.

McDonnell, a patrol officer in the foothills area command, broke his femur in the crash, said Celina Espinoza, a spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Police Department.

She said McDonnell was hired by APD in 2008.

The next year, in November 2009, he collided with another vehicle in the parking lot of the Foothills Substation, according to disciplinary records. The department determined it was preventable and gave him a letter of reprimand.

In October 2012, McDonnell was pulling over to help with a possible felony stop on Central and 55th NW when he struck another vehicle in the next lane. In August 2014, he was traveling south through an intersection on Coors NW when he struck a stop sign. In both cases he received letters of reprimand.

In June of 2015, McDonnell was disciplined with an eight hour suspension for violating standard operating procedures related to a preventable crash, although it’s unclear when that crash occurred. No details were available Wednesday.

Then, in February 2016, McDonnell rear ended another police cruiser as it slowed down to make a U-turn on Mountain NW. This was determined to be his “second preventable crash within a 12-month period,” according to the documents and he was disciplined with another eight hour suspension.

And in June 2016, McDonnell was “involved in an unauthorized pursuit.” No other details were available about the pursuit, but he was disciplined with 28 hours suspension.

Last month, investigators say, McDonnell was heading north on Eubank with his emergency lights on when Antoinette Suina, who had been headed south on Eubank, turned left onto Indian School NE. The two vehicles collided and Suina’s car was sent spinning into a nearby pole.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the crash.

Albuquerque police said its internal affairs division is also investigating. In a statement Wednesday, Espinoza said that investigation will include the officer’s past driving history and past administrative actions regarding him.

“Because of these ongoing investigations, the department is not able to comment further at this time,” she said.

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