Did SLO County medical examiner skate on hit-and-run?

May 16, 2016
Gary Walter

Gary Walter

By KAREN VELIE

Local officials decided to look the other way after the San Luis Obispo County contracted medical examiner was involved in a hit-and-run on his way to an autopsy. Even so, officers did arrest Dr. Gary Alan Walter for driving with a .19 blood alcohol level.

SLO County pays Walter, who lives in Visalia, $200,000 a year to do autopsies, medical exams, file reports and testify in court, according to his contract. The coroner’s team generally conducts autopsies and medical examinations once a week at a medical examination facility located at 835 Aerovista Place in San Luis Obispo.

At about 7:45 a.m. on March 9, Walter was spotted speeding down Broad Street near Orcutt Road with a blown front tire and steam pouring from the front end of his Cadillac Escalade truck. By the time SLO City police officers arrived, Walter had pulled his truck over near Tank Farm Road, just a half of a mile from the county medical examination facility, the police report says.

Walter told officers he had no idea how his truck had been damaged. Walter claimed he had driven from the Starbucks at the Marigold Center. Officers searched Walter’s reported route for signs of an accident, but found no evidence.

Officers again asked Walter what route he had taken, and Walter changed his statement. He told officers he had driven down Broad Street from Higuera Street, according to the police report.

Officers then discovered debris from Walter’s truck in front of Big Sky Cafe on Broad Street. Officers determined Walter had struck a vehicle that had been parked in front of the restaurant, though it was no longer there, according to the accident report.

Nevertheless, the accident report recommends taking no further action. Walter was not charged with hit-and-run.

Walter told officers he had consumed two single-shot vodkas at a home he owns in Cambria between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. After sleeping for three or four hours, Walter said he headed for work.

Officers transported Walter to French Hospital Medical Center for a blood test that showed an alcohol concentration of .19. The test results contradict Walter’s statement to police because he would not have had a .19 blood concentration 14 hours after consuming two single vodka drinks.

Walter pleaded no contest to misdemeanor DUI and was sentenced to three years probation.

Because of Walter’s questionable statements to officers, the hit-and-run and driving to work while intoxicated, it is likely attorneys locally and in the Central Valley will question the accuracy of his reports and testimony.

Last week, Walter testified that Alvaro Medrano, 54, a man who lost his life in a bar fight, died from injuries suffered in a fall, rather than blows to the head. Sergio Aranda, 36, and Travis Woolf, 37, are currently on trial for voluntary manslaughter stemming from the fight. Walter’s testimony is a key component to the prosecutor’s case.

Nevertheless, Tony Cipolla, the SLO County Sheriff’s Department public relations officer, said the sheriff plans to continue working with Walter through the end of his contract in June 2017. Walter’s contract permits either party to terminate the agreement with or without cause with 90 days written notice.

“The sheriff’s office had serious discussions with Dr. Walter about our concerns regarding the incident,” Cipolla said. “Since he is contracted through June 2017, the sheriff’s office will continue to honor that contract. We recognize that people make mistakes that are out of character but that does not prevent us from having confidence in Dr. Walter and insuring this does not occur again.”

 

Police Report 160309009 03/09/16 by CalCoastNews

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TacomaRose

There was a small article about this in the New Times but the reporter suggested that the police officials “declined to say exactly what his blood alcohol level was…”


Why wouldn’t they tell the press this basic information?


Then to top it off the Sheriff spokesman Cipolla tells the reporter, “The Sheriff’s Office had serious discussions with Dr Walter about our concerns regarding the incident but that the Sheriff’s Office will continue to honor Walter’s contract.


SERIOUSLY !!!! What a softball thrown by the New Times to help the police and Sheriff cover things up.


Walter’s contract should be terminated and he should be shown the door …. and Cippola and Parkinson should be shown the door as well.


NorthCountyGuy

Dirtbag needs to be fired and ordered into rehab.


Perspicacious

Not a bad DUI report, but I would REALLY like to see the report that DIDN’T charge him with hit and run. It is crap like that being submitted to the DA that ties the DA’s hands in cases like this.


Karen Velie

CCN missed attaching four pages in the post. The accident report and blood test report will be posted later today.


jonhartz

Great. Now every post-mortem exam this drunk did will be suspect, and if controversial, be sure the attorneys will attack them. I’ve inspected the Coroner’s Office and I cannot understand why, in the relatively small quarters, someone did not notice this stumble-bum’s breath and behavior. I know they are short-handed and have to farm out this work, but to an alcoholic? Really?


kayaknut

Many people who work with an alcoholic keep quiet thinking that anything they screw up will pale in comparison to what the alcoholic does and that since likely upper management already knows about it and does nothing it allow the non-drunk people to get away with anything, plus it’s only taxpayer money, it’s not like it real money, and there always is more if needed.


T-Bone

Pants on fire!


Mariposa

…and still smokin’!


Mr. Holly

At least he didn’t or couldn’t use the usual speeding doctor’s excuse that they were responding to an emergency at the hospital.


jonhartz

They people on the highway he used are lucky he didn’t kill them.


SLOBIRD

You really have to love the politic OF SLO County and all the well connected powers. Let’s see, lets review the incident Karen Velie encountered a couple of years of ago with the SLO Police. What a damn crooked system against the people! Thanks SLO Police and Sheriff Chief Parkinson.


achillesheal

There is a zero missing in the article. I’m hoping the amount he is paid is $20k and not $200k for performing autopsies while intoxicated.


kayaknut

Lets see 90 days notice today with cause would mean his contract would end around August 16, 2016. That seems about right too me. No payout of his contract beyond August and no “keep quiet” money.


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