By MIKE SAKAL
The mother of a 21-year-old Gilbert man killed during a high-speed chase last year is seeking $5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit from the town of Gilbert and three police officers, but said she would settle for $150,000.
Marlo Gonzales, the mother of Anthony Gonzales, filed a civil lawsuit against the town of Gilbert in Maricopa County Superior Court last month, claiming the town and officers Bill Caoutte, Jacques Tregre and Jason Roman were negligent during a high-speed chase when officers were pursuing suspects, including Gonzales, who police say were responsible for a violent home invasion, according to court documents.
Anthony Gonzales died on March 18, 2009, when he was pinned under a Jeep Cherokee he was riding in after it flipped over when it was struck by a police SUV in the 400 block of Williams Field Road. During the chase, police conducted a PIT maneuver, a tactic used to stop a vehicle after clipping it with another, causing the jeep to flip over, according to court documents.
Gonzales’ mother and her attorney, Robert Gehrke, had filed a notice of claim against the town in November, a precursor to a lawsuit, contending that the town was grossly negligent, reckless and used excessive force. Marlo Gonzales also contends that officers did not follow the department’s pursuit policy and did not seek care for her son after he was pinned under the Jeep.
Town officials did not respond to any of the allegations wrongdoing.
The crash between the police vehicle and the Jeep happened soon after a home invasion took place in the 3600 block of East Stampede Drive about 2:30 a.m. Police said Gonzales, Robert Gonzales, Ralph Chacon and Dominicio Soldano stormed the home claiming to be police officers, wearing bullet proof vests and armed with automatic weapons while a friend, Isidro Pineda Jr. served as their lookout, according to court documents. A man inside the home was assaulted as the suspects ransacked the home searching for jewelry, according to the documents.
After the invasion, Gonzales, Robert Gonzales, Chacon and Soldano fled in the Jeep onto the Santan Freeway stretch of Loop 202, where police followed them to a shopping center before they exited the vehicle. The men then got back inside the vehicle and continued traveling on Williams Field Road before the officer’s SUV struck it, causing it to roll over and pin Anthony Gonzales, according to court documents.
Because a death resulted from the commission of a crime, Chacon, Gonzales and Soldano have been charged with first-degree murder. They also have been charged with burglary and armed robbery, according to court documents. Attorney Gehrke would not comment on the case or say why Marlo Gonzales is willing to settle for $150,000. The town would not comment on pending litigation. An initial court date on the lawsuit has not been scheduled.