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Police officer, local resident injured in collision at intersection in El Centro

March 14, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

An El Centro police officer, in his patrol car and rushing to a call of a parole agent under attack, struck another vehicle Wednesday, causing injuries to the officer and the other driver.

The state parole agent, whose name was not released, was hurt when she was struck in the face by parolee William Patrick Gross, 35.

The case started about 1 p.m. when two parole agents went to a residence in the 800 block of Oleander Avenue to visit Gross, who was staying with his mother.

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It was a routine visit during which the agents were going to take Gross into their El Centro office to work with him on finding a permanent residence, said Hugh Nelson, a deputy regional administration for the state Department of Corrections, parole and community service division.

Gross was paroled from prison in January. He had been serving a sentence on an arson conviction.

Nelson said when agents went to the residence, Gross became combative and he struck the parole agent. Police were then called to the scene.

El Centro police Officer Antonio Hernandez was one of the officers who responded to the call. Hernandez was traveling on 12th Street, with the lights of his patrol unit on and his siren blaring, when a car driven by Jorge Salas, 34, of El Centro, who was traveling east on Euclid Avenue, came to a stop at the intersection of Euclid and 12th.

According to the California Highway Patrol, assigned to investigate the collision, Salas did not see any vehicles approaching and crossed through the intersection into the path of Hernandez's patrol car.

The vehicles collided despite Hernandez's efforts to swerve to the right.

The collision sent Salas' vehicle crashing into a tree and a six-foot wooden fence. The patrol unit struck the raised concrete on the curb and came to rest on its wheels facing east on Euclid.

Both Hernandez and Salas were wearing seat belts.

Hernandez was taken to El Centro Regional Medical Center by another officer, where he was treated for minor injuries. Salas was taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, where he was treated for several cuts and bruises.

The accident remained under investigation today.

Meanwhile, officers were able to take Gross into custody.

The parole agent was taken to the El Centro hospital, where she was treated for bruises. She was not seriously injured.

Gross was booked into the county jail both for battery on a peace officer and a parole violation. He was being held this morning without bail.

Nelson said he was unsure why Gross became combative with the agents.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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