Ten months after a high-speed police pursuit culminated with the deaths of five motorists on Interstate 10, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack indicated last week his department’s internal investigation into the crash had been forwarded to the district attorney’s office and said, “It is my understanding the investigation is going to the next session of the Baldwin County grand jury in February.”
Assistant District Attorney David White, citing grand jury secrecy rules, could not confirm or deny the case, while Mack said details of the report would not be released at this time.
As has been widely reported, on April 1, 2019, a Baldwin County deputy attempted to initiate a stop on a 2019 Chevy Malibu for swerving, but the driver accelerated and the deputy gave chase.
Beginning on eastbound I-10, the driver then exited at the Wilcox exit and returned westbound. With the deputy behind, the driver, later identified as 26-year-old Dominic Scotti Garcia Jr. of San Antonio, exited at the Baldwin Beach Express, then returned to eastbound I-10.
At some point, according to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), Garcia did a U-turn on the interstate and drove eastbound in the westbound lane at “a high rate of speed.” Rounding a curve, he hit a 2018 Ford Escape head-on, killing himself and two passengers in his own vehicle, plus both occupants of the SUV.
The victims, all of whom were from out of state, included Garcia, 25-year-old Payton Leigh Northcutt and 34-year-old Crystal Lee Moradie in the Malibu; and 81-year-old Joseph L. Andrews and his son, 54-year-old Kevin J. Andrews, in the Escape.
In the wake of the collision, questions were raised as to whether the deputy followed department policy in maintaining the high-speed pursuit, even as it grew increasingly risky. Further, the deputy was reported to be in an unmarked vehicle.
For its part, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) investigated the crash, as it does all traffic fatalities in the state. ALEA Lt. Byron Piggott said its report is complete, but the agency lacks clear legal guidance regarding the full or partial release of investigative reports.
Piggott said ALEA did not investigate the BCSO pursuit, but its “traffic homicide report” would detail the technical aspects of the collision, including such details as the atmospheric conditions, post-crash inspections of vehicles, crash data or downloads from on-board computers and crush analysis. It would also include witness statements and the autopsies of the victims.
“We do a traffic homicide report … if there is something we are going to prosecute or it involves three or more fatalities,” Piggott said. He couldn’t speak to the BCSO investigation, but said from ALEA’s standpoint, the case is considered closed.
“Once we identified the victims and determined they were all dead, there were no criminal prosecutions,” he said. “We may be called at some point to get involved in the civil side, if [we] haven’t already.”
Mack said he was unaware of any notice of claim filed against the county in the wake of the collision, a precursor to a civil lawsuit.
Piggott said it was his understanding that in Baldwin County, “every single unattended, unnatural death goes to the grand jury,” whether it is under suspicious circumstances or not.
“From my experience — and I don’t understand it — if you have some drunk whack into a tree and kill himself, that’s going to a grand jury,” Piggott said. “While that sort of seems like a waste of time, what it does do is set a precedent where you don’t get questioned later on about why one case went to the grand jury and another didn’t. But the fact that it goes to the grand jury in Baldwin doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
“The grand jury reviews that law enforcement worked the wreck, and if the victim was involved in his own demise, there will be no charges. It will be ‘no-billed.’ That’s all you’re going to get out of it.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).