In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, an SUV remains in the store after crashing through the wall of a Starbucks in Fillmore, Calif., killing a 30-year-old former Marine and Iraq war veteran.
The California DMV just this week suspended the driver’s license of an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy, four months after he blacked out while behind the wheel and caused a fatal accident. The agency took action only after being questioned by a KPCC reporter.
The DMV says that until this week, it had not received information from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department that would have allowed the agency to take action against L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Cedarland. While off-duty last December, Cedarland crashed into a Starbucks in Fillmore after losing consciousness from an apparent seizure. Marine and Iraq war veteran Sergio Mendez was struck and killed by Cedarland’s SUV inside the café.
DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza said the agency cannot act without official notification of a driver’s potential danger.
“DMV relies on the law enforcement to send us the report; relies on the medical professional to send a report. Or some sort of official report to come to the DMV where we can then make a determination whether to suspend, revoke or do some sort of action on the driver’s license,"
The accident last December happened just six weeks after the DMV reinstated Cedarland's license, which had been suspended after he suffered a seizure at work last May.
Ventura County Sheriff’s spokesman Captain Don Aguilar told KPCC that his agency had not sent the accident report to the DMV because the investigation won’t be complete until the Ventura County DA’s office reviews the case for possible criminal charges against Cedarland. The DA’s office only recently received the case from the Ventura County Sheriff’s office, which completed its accident report on March 8.
"It can take a few days if you have a traffic collision involving serious injury or even a fatality, it could take weeks for you to complete that report," Aguilar said.
The California vehicle code gives officers at the scene of an accident the option to issue what’s known as “a notice of reexamination.”
That document alerts the DMV about people who may be unfit to drive and who pose a danger to others. The DMV code states that the officer must transmit the reexamination form to the DMV before the end of the next working day.
The accident report obtained by KPCC indicates the investigating officer did complete that document. But it was not immediately sent to the DMV as required by law. When asked why the Ventura County Sheriff’s department did not promptly provide that information to the DMV, Aguilar would not provide further information.
The 31-year-old Cederland is a 7-year L.A. County Sheriff’s Department veteran. He is not required to drive as part of his job.