FRESNO, California (KSEE) – A Fresno Police detective was arrested on vehicular manslaughter charges Wednesday, for the death of a homeless man in September.
According to Fresno Police, around 9:30 p.m. on Sep. 5, on-duty detective Benito Soto hit and killed 51-year-old Jose Pulido as he was crossing Fresno Street at E Street.
“He believed in taking care of people, he thought he was put out here to take care of people,” said friend of Pulido, Dez Martinez.
Pulido was known to many as Guero. Friends describe him as someone who would share with others even when he didn’t have much himself. On the night he was struck, they say he was bringing his bike over to where he was planning to sleep that night – but he never made it.
The police department says then on-duty detective Soto hit him in the intersection. Despite life-saving measures, he was declared dead at the hospital soon afterward.
Martinez says it was an emotional time, filled with anger as the detective did not appear to face any consequences at the time of the collision.
“They seen him put in a car and left for somebody else. There was no handcuffs there was nothing. I mean like they would do that to other individual,” said Martinez.
Four months later, following an extensive investigation, the police department says Soto was arrested and charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
The investigation also concluded Pulido crossed at a red light and was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time. Despite the circumstances, the department says detective Soto was texting and driving, likely going above the 30 mph speed limit. In the well-lit intersection, he should have been able to stop and avoid the collision.
Soto faces a maximum sentence of a year in Fresno County Jail.
“In terms of custody the officer has really been able to dodge a bullet here if you will by not having gross negligence finding,” said criminal defense attorney David Mugridge.
Mugridge says Soto is a well-known officer and honest man, which may play a role in where the case goes.
“I think that will come back and help him in this case. It would not be completely unusual if he gets no actual time, even though there was a death, because there was no gross negligence found and because the deceased added to the cause of the death,” said Mugridge.
Despite where the case goes next, friends of Guero are taking the victory.
“We did actually win something, and it was justice,” said Martinez.
Soto was arrested Wednesday and was suspended, pending the results of the investigation.