MODESTO — In a final escort home Saturday, Deputy Jason Garner and Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson’s destroyed SUV was flanked and followed by law enforcement from around Stanislaus County.
“It was a sad scene today,” said CHP Officer Tom Olsen. “It’s just a bad day here in Stanislaus County.”
Garner not only leaves behind his job as a deputy, his wife and four kids, but also grieving friends and partners.
“He was like a brother. Awesome, awesome guy,” said Christopher Paez with California Legal Investigations. “Any time I needed something, or he needed something, we could always lean on each other. That’s what brothers do.”
Private Investigator Paez had just spoken with Garner on the phone earlier that morning. He says he had to come down and see for himself where his friend’s life was ended.
“I know he went with God,” Paez said. “I know that for sure.”
Johnson would not have normally been in that cruiser, responding to a burglary call. But the mother of three was building a training program for other community service officers who would be working with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department in Modesto.
“She was on basically training to see what was going on,” said Deputy Royjindar Singh with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. “She was going to help develop the training program for other CSO’s coming out of the office.”
Surveillance video obtained by FOX40 captured the final seconds before the fatal crash and fire that killed the two.
Deputy Garner appears to be going very fast, but the dust he kicks up is not coming from the road. In the video, it appears he’s already drifted across one lane of traffic and onto the shoulder on the opposite side. He doesn’t appear to be swerving or braking.
Garner first collides with a pillar supporting the tall metal awning of a salvage shop. Then he hits the shop itself. Before catching fire, the cruiser tumbles and lands on top of a scrap metal bin.
“I have seen the video,” said Undersheriff Ralph Ghimenti of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. “Hopefully the California Highway Patrol’s investigation can answer the questions as to why, and I don’t want to speculate at this time, which would be improper for me to do so.”