The wreckage of a Toyota Tacoma that was struck by a driver fleeing law enfocement last October.
The wreckage of a Toyota Tacoma that was struck by a driver fleeing law enfocement last October along the Gaviota Coast. A civil lawsuit against the city of Lompoc, the CHP and others has been filed by the children of a man who was fatally injured in the collision, along with a man who suffered critical injuries. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

A lawsuit has been filed against the California Highway Patrol, the city of Lompoc and others by the children of a man fatally injured in a crash caused by a Lompoc woman fleeing law enforcement officers last year.

A man critically injured in the collision is also a plaintiff in the case.

The Santa Barbara Superior Court lawsuit was filed by Jessica G. Garcia and Michael H. Garcia, adult children of the late Michael D. Garcia, along with Brett Jerome Bronstad and his wife, Sarah Bronstad.  

The CHP, the city of Lompoc, and CHP Officer Kevin McCool are named as defendants. 

Filed Oct. 4 by attorney Lawrence Conlan, the lawsuit stems from the crash caused by Dinara Arevalo, 25, of Lompoc last year on the Gaviota Coast. She is not named as a defendant in the case.

On Oct. 1, 2018, Lompoc police responded to a residence after receiving two phone calls, one from Arevalo claiming her brother had a knife while being in the midst of mental breakdown, and another from her parents expressing concern for their daughter.

As officers were attempting to sort out the situation, Arevalo drove away, followed by Lompoc police.

She led police on a pursuit as she drove erratically through the city to Highway 1 and onto Highway 101 at Gaviota. 

At some point, Lompoc police terminated the pursuit because of unsafe conditions  and later CHP officers began following Arevalo. 

Near Refugio State Beach, her vehicle struck a Toyota Tacoma, which Bronstad was driving, and in which Garcia was a passenger. 

The impact caused the Tacoma to rotate clockwise, leave the roadway, become airborne, overturn and land on its rooftop near the railroad tracks close to a cliff, McCool said during a preliminary hearing Arevalo’s criminal case.

Arevalo’s vehicle ended up in the center median. 

Both Bronstad and Michael D. Garcia received critical injuries, and Garcia died 10 days later after being in a coma.

“Lompoc Police and then the California Highway Patrol failed to take reasonable steps to detain Arevalo, and instead negligently and recklessly created a dangerous situation that increased the risk of harm to the public generally and to Mr. Bronstad and Mr. Garcia specifically,” the civil claim said.

“The only reason Arevalo was driving on U.S. 101 at that moment was because of the negligent conduct of the Lompoc Police Department and negligent and reckless conduct of the California Highway Patrol.”

During Arevalo’s preliminary hearing, law enforcement officers said the woman at times drove at speeding exceeding 100 mph, along with passing on double yellow lines and the shoulder.

At least one CHP officer testified during the preliminary hearing he was not aware of the driver’s possible mental-health issues.

The lawsuit claims law enforcement officers knew Arevalo appeared agitated and disorganized. 

“Lompoc Police provoked an unnecessarily dangerous situation with a mentality unstable individual, which created avoidable risk to the public and that led to a tragedy,” the claim said. 

It also blamed CHP officers for not deploying a spike strip to stop Arevalo.

“The negligent conduct of Lompoc Police, compounded by the negligent and reckless conduct of the California Highway Patrol, ended in tragedy that could have been easily avoided,” the lawsuit claimed. “Instead one much-loved man is dead and his dear friend for decades suffered severe physical injuries and will forever suffer the resulting emotional trauma.”

Seeking more than $25,000, the plaintiffs are claiming negligence, wrongful death, negligent supervision and training, and loss of consortium. 

As of Thursday, the court filing system did not show that the defendants had responded to the civil lawsuit, which represents only the plaintiffs’ allegations. The defendants likely will file responses in the coming weeks.

A case-management conference has been scheduled for Feb. 3 before Santa Barbara Judge Colleen Sterne. 

Following a preliminary hearing last month, Arevalo ordered to trial on a pair of felony criminal charges — vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and felony evading an officer.

Arevalo returned to court Thursday in Lompoc, where attorneys and the judge set Dec. 6 for a hearing regarding a motion seeking to divert her criminal case to mental-health treatment court. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.