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Two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies injured in Highway 12 crash

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A Sonoma County deputy accidentally rear-ended another deputy Wednesday evening on Highway 12 while responding to a call, hospitalizing one deputy with moderate injuries.

The high-speed collision, which totaled two patrol SUVs and shut down the highway for nearly two hours, is expected to be reviewed both by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and also by the California Highway Patrol.

The officials involved were two of the “numerous” deputies responding to a domestic violence call reported at about 5:25  p.m. near Highway 12 and Melita Road, said Sgt. Juan Valencia, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

The lead deputy braked while approaching a driveway in that area and was struck by the patrol car of the deputy traveling behind him, Valencia said. It was not immediately clear why one vehicle slowed down and the other did not.

“I think there might have been some sort of confusion,” Valencia said, adding that the Sheriff’s Office would look at the collision to determine how it could have been avoided.

The crash occurred at a “high rate of speed,” he said, but it was not immediately clear how fast.

One deputy was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with moderate injuries and the other was treated on scene for minor injuries, authorities said. The hospitalized deputy, who was in the trailing vehicle, had been discharged by Thursday morning, Valencia said.

Both men would likely be “out for a bit” to recover from the crash, Valencia said.

“We appreciate the concern and support the community has shown for our two deputies,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, pledging to release their names at a later date.

The two totaled patrol SUVs are Ford Explorers, but Valencia said he didn’t know their year of make or how much they cost. The Sheriff’s Office does have insurance for such cases, he said.

Valencia said he didn’t know how many deputies responded to the initial call, but he estimated more than four were en route when the crash happened. He said deputies had visited the house on similar grounds before, and rushed to the scene this time because the caller reported hearing “some sort of physical altercation.”

The domestic violence suspect was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, as well as an outstanding warrant for probation violation and battery on an elder or dependent adult, Valencia said.

“Domestic violence calls are one of the most dangerous calls for service,” Valencia said. “Emotions are high, especially if we’ve been there in the past.”

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office handbook leaves the speed of response in a Code 3 or emergency situation up to deputies’ best judgment. But supervisors are empowered to call off such responses.

“This is based upon the conditions present at that time, the need for urgency in responding and the safety of other persons on the roadways,” according to the county documents. “Final responsibility rests with the Deputy for the consequences of this decision.”

You can reach Staff Writers Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com and Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or pressdemocrat.com.

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