The family of an elderly Cloverdale woman who died after she was struck in a downtown parking lot by retired Police Chief Rob Dailey is raising questions about how local police handled their investigation of the crash, given Dailey's former post as department head.
Though retired 10 years before the Jan. 31 accident that resulted in the death of Margaret Joyce Ross, 87, Dailey's 33-year connection to the department provoked immediate concerns about investigators' neutrality in the case, said personal injury attorney Barbara Bozman-Moss, who is representing Ross' family.
Still-unanswered questions also suggest the accident did not receive sufficient scrutiny, given the gravity of Ross' injuries, said Bozman-Moss, who is preparing to file a wrongful death suit against Dailey on the Rosses' behalf.
"You can't leave any stone unturned," Bozman-Moss said, "and it feels like there's a stone unturned."
On the morning of Jan. 31, Ross and her daughter, Trisha Ross, 51, had parked at the downtown Exchange Bank and were walking across the parking lot to the ATM when Dailey turned in from South Cloverdale Boulevard.
His Chevrolet Silverado was traveling 2 or 3 mph when he struck both women, knocking them over and causing both to suffer head injuries, a police report on the accident says.
Trisha Ross told police the pickup driver "was looking down and did not see them until the collision occurred," according to the report.
Dailey told the investigating officer his attention was drawn by a vehicle parked to his right when "he heard a thump and applied his brake," then backed up and discovered he had hit the women, the report states.
Trisha Ross, who is still recovering from a concussion, said both women "flew up and landed on our heads." Her mother "was knocked out cold."
Margaret Ross died 12 days later after suffering a stroke, Bozman-Moss said. The police report says a doctor informed authorities that her death "was directly related to the injuries received in this accident."
The accident report clearly places the blame on Dailey's inattention.
But Bozman-Moss said the family contacted her because they were concerned the case had not been aired as fully as a fatal vehicle crash normally would be because of what they perceived to be close connections between Dailey and the emergency personnel involved in reviewing it.
She said the women — one with a walker — were halfway across the one-way parking lot, "in plain sight," yet there appeared to have been little scrutiny into why Dailey didn't see them before it was too late.
Checked boxes on the police report say neither alcohol nor cellphone use were factors in the 11:23 a.m. accident. Yet there is no indication of field sobriety tests, blood draws, cellphone inspection or anything else to suggest police did anything but accept whatever Dailey told them, Bozman-Moss said.
Cloverdale Police Chief Mark Tuma, who knows Dailey only as a fellow Rotary Club member, said that to his knowledge, Dailey's sobriety was not in question.
"There was no indication of alcohol," Tuma said.
Tuma said his department would not normally test the sobriety of a driver who hit a pedestrian at a slow speed if the driver stayed at the scene, was coherent and the accident did not appear to be fatal.