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Luna County deputy faces charges, lawsuit following crash that killed toddler


This story was updated on April 29 with comments from Luna County and an attorney representing Paul Garcia.

A civil suit were filed this month against a Luna County Sheriff’s deputy involved in the November 2023 death of 14-month-old Wyatt Franzoy of Deming.

Wyatt’s parents, Isabella Hernandez and William Franzoy, filed a civil suit against Corporal Paul Garcia and the Board of County Commissioners of Luna County on April 10 for wrongful death, personal injury damages, civil rights violations and loss of consortium.

Criminal charges were also filed against Garcia on April 23 with one count of homicide by vehicle and one count of great bodily injury by vehicle. Both counts are third-degree felonies and are claimed to be caused by reckless driving. 

According to court documents filed in the criminal case, the crash occurred on Nov. 11, 2023 in Deming. Hernandez was driving southbound on New Mexico Highway 11, also known as Columbus Road, with her son and preparing to make a left turn when Garcia and Deputy Clinton Garner, an officer in training, collided with her vehicle at 99 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone.

First responders work the scene of the Nov. 11, 2023 crash in Luna County near Isabella Hernandez’s car.
First responders work the scene of the Nov. 11, 2023 crash in Luna County near Isabella Hernandez’s car.

Records note that New Mexico State Police investigator Antoinette Calderon found there is no dash cam or body cam footage of the crash itself, for reasons that remain unclear. Luna County Manager Chris Brice referred to the cause as a "glitch" of unknown cause.

Garcia was reportedly attempting to pass Hernandez en route to respond to a burglary in progress. Data from Garcia’s dash cam reported speeds exceeding 130 miles per hour, far above the posted speed limits.

Calderon said in the court documents that, according to the sheriff’s department’s policy for the operation of department vehicles, “while responding to calls by lights and sirens, deputies may not exceed 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.”

Hernandez’s vehicle was totaled and she lost consciousness. She sustained fractures to her collarbone, pelvis, rib cage and wrists as well as bleeding in her liver, nerve damage and ongoing mental fog. Wyatt was restrained in a backward-facing car seat in the backseat of the vehicle and required CPR. He was transferred to Mimbres Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

The cause of death was reported as blunt trauma.

A roadside memorial for Wyatt Franzoy on New Mexico Highway 11 in Luna County, where he was killed in a collision on Nov. 11, 2023.
A roadside memorial for Wyatt Franzoy on New Mexico Highway 11 in Luna County, where he was killed in a collision on Nov. 11, 2023.

Garcia will make a first appearance in Luna County Magistrate Court in Deming on May 16. According to the county, Garcia had recently been on patrol duty and was placed on paid administrative leave after the charges were filed.

Hernandez and Franzoy spoke at a press conference at their attorney’s office in El Paso Wednesday, April 24, recounting what they remembered from the day of the crash. They were joined by family.

“Wyatt and I were headed home the morning of the crash,” Hernandez said. “I became unconscious when he hit us. I came to at some point – in pain, crying for help because I couldn’t breathe. And asking for my son – where was my son? My car was in the dirt and turned in the wrong direction. I saw a group of men in front of my car pushing on the ground. It felt surreal, like a dream.”

Hernandez struggled to get through her statement, holding her son’s teddy bear.

“My first and only son was taken from our family because of a reckless and dangerous driver, only two months after his first birthday,” Franzoy said. “He didn’t even make it to his second Christmas. I pray that no parent ever has to know the pain of returning Christmas gifts that were never put under the Christmas tree or folding new clothes that were never worn. It’s the worst feeling in the world when you hug your child for the last time and they’re ice cold.”

The parents are asking for a jury trial in the civil suit and that they find Garcia liable for wrongful death of their son, personal injury damages, loss of consortium and civil rights violations. They are also asking the court to find the Board of County Commissioners of Luna County liable for negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention of Garcia.

Garcia previously pleaded guilty to aggravated DWI, a second-degree felony, in Luna County in 2016. He received a suspended sentence and was placed under supervised probation for about 11 months. Charges of careless driving and abuse of a child in that case were dismissed by the prosecution.

Luna County Sheriff Mike Eby referred questions to the county manager's office, where Brice said an internal investigation of the incident remains underway. 

"He was placed on administative leace immediately following the incident as well," Brice wrote to the Bulletin. "We put him through all of the procedures and protocols we normally would for an officer involved death. He was cleared for duty following those same protocols." Brice said Garcia was placed on patrol duty pending the New Mexico State Police investigation and was again placed on administrative leave when the charges were filed, pending a conclusion to the internal investigation, which Brice noted "is completely separate from the criminal charges."

On April 29, Luis Robles, an attorney representing Garcia in the criminal case, told the Bulletin: "This incident is undeniably tragic. It is tragic for the family as well as for Corporal Garcia. Nobody wanted this accident to occur, but yet it did. However, this is a matter for the civil courts, not the criminal courts.” 

Leah Romero is a freelance writer based in southern New Mexico. She can be reached at LeahRRomero.com.

Algernon D'Ammassa contributed to this report.

Luna County, law enforcement, vehicular homicide