Family and friends of man killed in Gresham cop car crash continue to wonder if they’ll find justice

See what happens when a cop car – speeding to a call, apparently without flashing emergency lights or siren – blows through an intersection with a busy outer East Portland street at night …

Authorities say Gresham Police Officer Joshua Linstrom was driving the squad car that slammed into a minivan, killing one, on June 1.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton
The stillness of a summer’s evening is often broken by the sound of cars racing on main highways in outer East Portland like NE Glisan St. But, the neighborhood in outer East Portland had quieted down by 9:25 p.m. on June 1.

29-year-old Gresham Police Officer Joshua Linstrom, a member of the force for less than a year, responded to another officer’s call asking for help to catch “speed racers” in the area.

“The patrol vehicle was traveling North on NE 188th Ave.,” Sgt. Teddi Anderson Gresham Police spokesperson told us at the scene that night. “At NE Glisan St., the vehicle collided with a minivan. There were no fatalities.”

What Anderson didn’t know at the time, as she spoke with us that night, was that 29-year-old Marino Sanchez-Sanchez–one of the minivan’s three occupants riding in the back seat–had been pronounced dead at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center.

Fatal crash investigators called in from the Portland Police Traffic Division heard from witnesses that the patrol car didn’t heed the stop sign at NE Glisan St. when it plowed into the side of a 1996 Dodge Caravan.

Riding in the back seat of the minivan when it was T-boned by a Gresham police car, Marino Sanchez-Sanchez was pronounced dead at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center after the accident.

“There is a lot of racing here,” said resident Ron Skov at the scene, “but I didn’t hear any tonight. I heard a crash, went outside and saw a cop get out of his car. He limped over the minivan ‚Äì it was really crunched — and looked at the people inside.” The area quickly filled with police cars, Skov said, and they suggested he step back. “I did.”

“I didn’t hear any siren sound,” said neighbor Judy Nichols, “And after I heard the crash and ran out to see what happened, the cop car didn’t have its flashing red and blue lights on.”

Police haven’t commented on whether Linstrom was responding “Code 2”, with emergency lights on, or “Code 3”, with lights and sirens. According to Portland Police spokesperson, Sgt. Brian Schmautz, Oregon law requires emergency vehicle drivers to use warning lights and sirens when going through a stop sign or stop light.

The driver of the T-boned minivan, 33-year-old Diego D. Martinez of Portland, and his other passenger, Jose Luis Bahena, 37, of Vancouver, checked out of Legacy Emanuel Hospital two days later. They were said to be in relatively good condition. The survivors wondered aloud to reporters if the case would be hidden away, or if they would see justice as it was investigated.

Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney Chuck Sparks is investigating the case. It could be heard by a grand jury. The investigation could take weeks to wrap up, police and prosecutors.

UPDATE: Cop back on duty
Linstrom, returned to the Gresham Police force on July 17, but was assigned to a desk job. Officials say the officer may return to active patrol duty as soon as July 24.

UPDATE: Grand Jury: No criminal charges
On July 21, it took a Grand Jury panel four hours to return a “not true” bill for one charge of criminally negligent homicide and two counts of third-degree assault, against Linstrom.

In a press release, Chief of Gresham’s police bureau, Carla Piluso, said their organization will conduct their own investigation “‚Ķ to ensure that no policy, procedures or general orders of the Gresham Police Department have been violated.”

In numerous media interviews, friends of Marino Sanchez-Sanchez expressed their concern that there will be no justice because the driver who destroyed the minivan and took Sanchez-Sanchez live was a cop.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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