From: Press Telegram
By: Nathaniel Percy, 4/20/2023
Long Beach city prosecutors this week said they will not retry a case against a former California Highway Patrol officer accused of speeding when he hit and killed a 24-year-old man on a Long Beach street while on his way to work more than three years ago.
Jurors last month were deadlocked after listening to weeks of testimony in the case against Alfredo Oros Gutierrez, who was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter following the crash, Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert said.
Gutierrez was driving his CHP motorcycle to work along Del Amo Boulevard when he hit Cezannie Mount about 4:40 a.m., Oct. 27, 2019, authorities said.
Gutierrez worked out of the South Los Angeles office, but was no longer employed, CHP Officer Angelica Gonzales confirmed.
City prosecutors opted not to retry the case in part to spare the Mount family further pain, but also because it took three years to get to trial only for it to end with a hung jury, Haubert said in a statement this week, adding that prosecutors consulted with the Mount family before making a decision.
Instead, Haubert’s office sent a letter to CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee requesting the agency form a policy to avoid handling investigations involving its own officers when those investigations are outside the jurisdiction of the CHP.
Within that letter, Haubert said he was informed Gutierrez was medically retired.
The crash occurred within the city of Long Beach, and Long Beach Police Department investigators began investigating the crash, but “the investigation was assumed by CHP’s (Major Accident Investigations Team) unit, for reasons that are still unclear,” despite the fact the crash did not occur near a freeway, but in LBPD’s jurisdiction and despite LBPD having the expertise to conduct that type of investigation, Haubert wrote in the letter, dated April 11.
Defense attorneys relied on the CHP MAIT unit’s investigation during the trial, Haubert wrote, adding that “an objective person might conclude that some aspects of the MAIT report make effort to minimize culpability of Mr. Gutierrez.
“There’s no way to know if the outcome of this particular trial would have been different if another agency handled the investigation,” Haubert continued. “The unusual circumstances of the incident have led some to believe there was a conflict of interest, or the perception of a conflict.”
Haubert said the letter was not meant to criticize, but to “bring attention to the need for change.”
City prosecutors tried the misdemeanor case and alleged Gutierrez’ negligence while driving caused Mount’s death.
Mount played basketball at Long Beach Poly High School and was an aspiring hip-hop artist, his family has said. After earning a degree in music from Earlham College in Indiana, he had returned home and was working at Raising Cane’s in Lakewood to pay for studio time to make music.
Mount was walking home from work at the time of the crash, according to his father, Alvin.
Gutierrez was hospitalized with major head trauma as a result of the crash, authorities said.
The Mount family, in May 2020, filed a civil lawsuit against Gutierrez and the CHP alleging wrongful death and negligence.
The lawsuit accuses Gutierrez of driving at least 70 mph in a 40 mph zone in an area known for foot traffic and that he did not have his lights or sirens on at the time of the crash.
That case was still ongoing, according to court records.