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Deputy: Officer violated chase protocol

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Albuquerque police Sgt. Adam Casaus had his foot on the gas and was accelerating as he drove into an intersection and crashed into two young women, according to a crash reconstructionist.

And also in testimony Thursday, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Leonard Armijo, who trains officers on driving emergency vehicles, said that no matter the circumstance, speeding into a red light is “absolutely not acceptable.” Armijo was the lead investigator in the case.

Casaus is on trial for the Feb. 10, 2013, crash that killed 21-year-old Ashley Browder instantly and injured her 19-year-old sister, Lindsay. The crash occurred at 1:30 a.m. in the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Eagle Ranch. He has been charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving causing great bodily harm. He could face up to nine years in prison if convicted.

Casaus, who was driving an APD Chevy Tahoe while off duty, has been fired. He pleaded innocent and said he was trying to find a dark sedan that he saw driving recklessly on Paseo del Norte shortly before the crash. A recording of him being interviewed by Armijo after the crash was played for the jury on Thursday. Investigators have said at trial they can’t find footage or other witnesses who could confirm the reckless driver Casaus said he was chasing.

John D’Amato, Casaus’ attorney, during cross-examinations has indicated that investigators failed to report crucial details about the case, such as that the speed limit sign closest to the crash was down and that another witness to the crash had left the scene and hasn’t been interviewed by the lead detective. The defense will likely start to present its case today.

State Police Sgt. Lauren Milligan, the crash reconstructionist, and Armijo each testified and were cross-examined for several hours Thursday.

Milligan said Casaus didn’t touch the brake and was pushing the gas from 2 seconds before the crash to half a second before impact.

“The driver of the Tahoe was accelerating going into the intersection, well above the posted speed limit,” he said.

He said Casaus was driving between 60 and 65 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The speed limit at the site is 45.

“You have a legal, ethical and moral obligation to go through an intersection … in a safe manner,” Armijo said on the stand. “I would teach and train recruits that (speeding through a red light) is absolutely not acceptable.”

Armijo said police are trained to come to a complete stop at a red light and put on their emergency lights and blare a horn or siren before running a red light.

A jury was seated Tuesday in front of District Judge Richard Knowles. The trial is expected to finish early next week.

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