Settlements totaling $8.8 million in deputy wrongful death case

Settlements totaling $8.8 million in deputy wrongful death case »Play Video
Deputy John Swearengin, left, is arraigned Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Kern County court on two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Kern County reached settlements totaling $8.8 million Friday in wrongful death claims stemming from a sheriff's deputy crash.

Deputy John Swearengin's patrol car hit and killed two people in December 2011 in Oildale.

Swearengin was en route to a report of a stolen vehicle with a suspect on the scene when his patrol car slammed into 24-year-old Daniel Hiler and 30-year-old Chrystal Jolley, who were pushing a motorcycle across Norris Road.

Investigators determined Swearengin was driving 84.9 mph on Norris Road, which has a posted sign of 45 mph. At the point of impact with the pedestrians, the California Highway Patrol found Swearengin to be traveling at 64.4 mph.

Swearengin also didn't have his emergency lights and siren activated prior to or at the time of the crash, the CHP determined. Officers can travel faster than the speed limit if going "code 3" during an emergency, but they must have their emergency lights and siren activated.

Both the families of Hiler and Jolley filed wrongful death claims against the county.

Friday, attorneys Chain|Cohn|Stiles announced a $4.8 million settlement for Hiler's family. "This is believed to be a record settlement" for a car crash case against the county and sheriff's department, the law firm said in a news release.

Deputy county counsel Mark Nations said Jolley's family received $4 million in their settlement.

Criminal proceedings continue against Swearengin, who faces two felony counts of vehicle manslaughter with gross negligence. He has a jury trial scheduled for March 10.