Gregorio Fernandez: Newly released reports recommended criminal charges against PBSO Corporal

PBSO drafts never released until now

"Oh man, wow," were the first words Patricia Wallace spoke when she read two reports recommending why the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Corporal who struck and killed her son should have faced criminal charges.

"It's been a long time. This has been the longest 6 years of my life," said Wallace. 

Thanksgiving Day marked 6 years since her son, Jonathan and his colleague, Donta Manuel, were hit and killed by a fellow deputy while on duty.

The two reports, draft reports just released by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office after a brief court battle with NewsChannel 5, describe what happened November 28, 2007. It was that night Wallace and Manuel were struck and killed by fellow deputy, K-9 Corporal Greg Fernandez.  Fernandez was pursuing a car thief in Pahokee, when investigators say he hit Wallace and Manuel at triple digit speeds. Wallace and Manuel were working the case on foot, deploying stop sticks to stop the thief.

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READ THE REPORTS:

Notice of voluntary dismissal: http://bit.ly/Kn4lKv
Investigative report: http://bit.ly/Kn4uNS
Draft vehicle homicide investigation: http://bit.ly/Kn4AFl

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Both draft reports, submitted by the agency's lead traffic homicide investigator on the case, end with the same two paragraphs, recommending the deputy who struck and killed these officers face criminal charges.

"Based on the investigative findings, Fernandez drove his vehicle in a willful and wanton reckless manner," it states. "Therefore, based on the aforementioned information, the facts support there is sufficient probably cause to support the following violations of Florida State Statute by Gregorio Fernandez: Two counts of Vehicle Homicide.

But the investigator's recommendation to pursue charges never made it in the agency's final report, which was ultimately submitted to the State Attorney months later.

It's also a recommendation the state's attorney's lead prosecutor on the case agreed with but never saw.

"I don't know what happened, why this whole packet didn't make it to my desk when every other one did since 1993," said Ellen Roberts.

For more than a decade, Roberts led the state attorney's traffic homicide division.

"You can't just drive like that and kill someone and not be charged for it," she said. 

Now retired from the State Attorney's office, Roberts spoke out for the first time in November questioning why Fernandez never faced criminal charges in the case and why, she says, she was abruptly pulled off the case.

It remains unclear why the sheriff chose to leave out his own investigator's recommendation from the final version.

Then State Attorney, Barry Krischer, who now consults for the sheriff's office, ultimately cleared deputy Greg Fernandez of any wrong doing.

But for the families left behind, these newly released draft reports are reason for newfound hope and Wallace says she hopes to meet with the State Attorney's office about the case.

"You gave us what we need to go forward and I press forward with this. My next visit is to the State Attorney's office to ask him if he will prosecute this case with justice," said Wallace.

A spokesperson for the sheriff is not in the office this week but told NewsChannel 5, via email, that she will forward our request for information and an interview with Sheriff Ric Bradshaw when she returns to the office on Monday.

It is not uncommon for law enforcement to include recommendations for charges or not include recommendations in their final reports to the State Attorney. 

The State Attorney's office  told NewsChannel 5 that they would review the case and hoped to meet with Wallace soon.

The final decision on whether or not to prosecute a case is up to the State Attorney.

 

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