ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque police sergeant involved in a fatal crash earlier this month entered a West Side intersection on a red light, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department revealed Wednesday.
A 21-year-old woman died and her sister suffered serious injuries when Sgt. Adam Casaus rammed their SUV in the intersection Paseo del Norte NW and Eagle Ranch Road around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 10.
Sources tell News 13 Casaus may have been going as fast as 60 to 75 miles an hour; the speed limit is 50.
Casaus, reported to be catching up to a possible drunken driver, had engaged his emergency lights but not his siren before the 1:30 a.m. collision, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.
The Albuquerque Police Department refused to comment on what the department policy is for using emergency equipment. Instead it sent KRQE News 13 a copy of APD "procedural orders" showing "sirens may be used to clear traffic and negotiate intersections."
It also states "regardless of response code - an officer is not relieved of responsibility for the safety of persons and protection of property."
Casaus was off duty and headed west on Paseo del Norte when he struck the Honda CRV broadside on the passenger door.
The passenger, Ashley Browder, 21, a member of the Air National Guard, died at the scene, while her sister, Lindsey Browder, 19, suffered a spinal fracture and other injuries. Casaus reported minor injuries.
Sources tell us Casaus had just visited his wife, a sheriff's dispatcher, at the dispatch center near Paseo Del Norte and Eubank. Casaus lives near Paseo and Ventana Parkway. The crash was in the middle at Coors and Eagle Ranch.
Investigators could not resolve one question about Casaus' actions leading up to the crash.
"Statements made by Sergeant Casaus reflect that at the time of the crash, he was attempting to catch up to a possible drunk driver," the news release states. "There is no corroborating information to either confirm or deny that statement."
Casaus admitted he entered the intersection against the red light, and "information obtain through the investigation" confirmed that, the release said.
The sheriff's department is handling the investigation to avoid conflicts of interest within the Albuquerque Police Department.
Records show Casaus' shift ended at 11 p.m. Neither driver was tested for drug or alcohol use because they did not display signs of impairment, according to the news release.
APD says Casaus did submit a blood test immediately after the crash, but those results will not be back for about six weeks.
The statement from the sheriff's department did not estimate Casaus' speed at the time of the crash but said the crash data recorders from both vehicles still are being analyzed.
The investigation is expected to continue for another three to four weeks before it's turned over to the District Attorney's Office for review and possible charges.
Casaus has since been reassigned to desk duty.
Browder's family has set up a memorial fund as they prepare for her burial with military honors at noon Saturday at the Eastside Memorial in Minden, Nev. Donations may be sent to the "Browder Family Benefit Fund" at any Wells Fargo Bank.
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