ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Police Department Sgt. Adam Casaus logged off his last call shortly before 10 p.m. last Saturday — nearly four hours before he broadsided a Honda CR-V, killing the vehicle’s passenger, according to police dispatch records obtained by the Journal.
The records don’t show any police dispatchers advising Casaus of a suspected drunken driver in the area prior to the crash, at the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Eagle Ranch Road NW. And Casaus, a veteran sergeant who worked for several years in the APD traffic unit, didn’t call out over his police radio that he had seen someone showing signs of intoxication behind the wheel.
The documents, obtained through a public records request, also show that no aggressive or drunken drivers were reported in the area by anyone at APD within hours before the crash or at least a half hour afterward.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, which assumed primary responsibility for the crash investigation in the hours after 21-year-old Ashley Browder was pronounced dead at the scene, has said Casaus had the emergency lights and sirens engaged on his APD SUV and was either looking for a drunken driver or pursuing one at the time of the wreck.
But BCSO hasn’t said where that theory came from, and a department spokesman on Friday declined to comment on what the APD dispatch records showed until the investigation is complete. That could take as long as a month.
Police Chief Ray Schultz also declined to comment on the dispatch records, but he did answer “yes” to a follow-up email question asking whether Casaus could have been looking for a suspected drunken driver but didn’t notify dispatchers.
APD also issued a statement later Friday:
“Our hearts go out to all of Ms. Browder’s friends and loved ones who have experienced this tragic loss,” the statement said in part. “We also wish a full recovery to Lindsay Browder. APD extends their full support to the family and will remain available to assist the family in any way possible as they work through this difficult time.”
Lindsay Browder, Ashley Browder’s 19-year-old sister, was driving the Honda and was seriously injured in the crash.
Casaus did not respond to an email seeking comment late Friday.
Martinez said earlier this week that she didn’t know whether Casaus, who works out of APD’s Southwest Area Command near Coors and Bluewater SW, had been working overtime when he struck the Browders’ vehicle. His shift had ended at 11 p.m.
Documents obtained by the Journal indicate that Casaus was not signed up to work DWI overtime on Saturday night or Sunday morning.
APD standard operating procedures state that officers initiating traffic stops ” … shall advise communications of the impending stop, giving violator’s vehicle information (license plate, description of vehicle and/or occupants, etc.) and location.”
The department’s policies allow off-duty officers to enforce the law. If they observe criminal activity, officers are to contact police dispatchers by telephone, “unless the situation requires an immediate response, at which time officers may use their department issued police radio, if available.”
Casaus was westbound on Paseo del Norte around 1:30 a.m. when he struck Browder’s vehicle, which was northbound on Eagle Ranch Road.
BCSO has declined to say which vehicle ran the red light.
After the crash, Sheriff’s investigators executed a search warrant for the electronic recording “black box” on Casaus’ police vehicle. The box will likely show how fast the sergeant was going at the time of the crash and, potentially, whether he applied his brakes.
Sheriff’s spokesman Aaron Williamson has said he assumes chemical testing was done on Casaus and Lindsay Browder to determine whether either of them had been drinking or using drugs. It’s unclear whether investigators have gotten the results back yet.
Casaus was taken to an area hospital after the crash with a cut on his head and chest pains. He was released later Sunday and, according to Martinez of APD, he has been at home recovering this week. When he returns to work, he will be assigned to desk duty until the Sheriff’s Office completes its investigation.
Lindsay Browder suffered a broken hip and a broken spine in the crash, according to BCSO. She was released from University of New Mexico Hospital this week.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal