Off-duty Calif. CO dies after vehicle collision
Sgt. Cesar Fuentes was on his way home when a vehicle made a U-turn directly in front of his motorcycle
FRENCH CAMP — A correctional officer with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office died while on the way home Sunday evening as the result of a two-vehicle collision, authorities reported.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, in mourning the loss of an employee, identified him as Correctional Sgt. Cesar Fuentes, 32, a six-year veteran of the agency who worked in the jail, serving on the Custody Emergency Response Team for five years and as a team leader.
The California Highway Patrol reported Fuentes was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle eastbound on Mathews Road between the sheriff’s complex on Michael Canlis Boulevard and Interstate 5.
About 6:15 p.m., a Ford pickup driven by Roger DeLaCruz, 60, was stopped along the south shoulder of Mathews Road when it suddenly made a U-turn directly in front of Fuentes’ motorcycle, according to the CHP.
The motorcycle collided with the driver’s side of the pickup and Fuentes was ejected onto the roadway. He was transported to nearby San Joaquin General Hospital, where he died from his injuries, authorities reported.
The CHP reported DeLaCruz did not sustain any injuries during the collision. During an afternoon news conference, Sheriff Patrick Withrow said DeLaCruz had reportedly pulled over and made the U-turn after realizing he had forgotten his wallet at home. The CHP is conducting the ongoing accident investigation, and no charges have been filed against DeLaCruz.
Withrow noted that Fuentes had just completed his work shift and was traveling home at the time of the collision.
“From what I understood, being the Marine that he was, he was able to gather himself and get back to his feet. People called 911 and CHP and medics and fire arrived on scene and he was complaining of some back pain,” Withrow said.
“He was tough, but they got him to go to the hospital and once they got him to the hospital, they started their exam and they determined that they believed he had some internal bleeding and took him into surgery. He succumbed to his injuries in surgery,” Withrow said.
Fuentes is survived by his fiancee and his family “who will love and miss him dearly. They will cherish the memories they made together. We at the Sheriff’s Office send them our deepest sympathy, love and prayers.”
In addition to his public service with the Sheriff’s Office, Fuentes — a native of Livingston — joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve upon graduation from high school in 2006 and served 12 years, including three tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant.
Upon graduation from the sheriff’s training academy, Fuentes earned the Dighton Little Award from his peers and the Christopher Serpa Award for overall outstanding performance. After five years with the department, Fuentes was promoted to sergeant.
“He was the future of our department,” Withrow said.
“He was so well-loved, so well-respected. ... He’s the type of guy that was going to be here for a long time and continue on our tradition here at the sheriff’s department.”
The Sheriff’s Office statement concluded: “This is an extremely painful time for the Sheriff’s Office family. Peer support teams and the Sheriff’s Office chaplain have been actively supporting staff and friends. The Sheriff’s Office family extends our gratitude to the outside agencies who participated in the procession from the hospital to the Forensic Pathology Facility. Thank you for bringing our brother home, where we can keep watch over him until he is laid down for eternal rest.”