Did LAPD Sgt. Arturo Yanez Help Cover Up a Hit and Run?

For those of you unfamiliar with local geography, Yanez's story goes something like this. Sometime in the evening of July 26th, someone stole her car from the family driveway. They then drove 16 miles soutwest to Gardena where they hit Jesse Dotson and left him laying in the street. They then turned around and drove 16 miles back to Huntington Park where they lef the car just blocks from her parent's house. Image via ##https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=El+Sereno+Street+and+Vermont,+Gadena+CA&daddr=hUNTINGTON+PARK,+CA&hl=en&sll=34.020479,-118.411732&sspn=0.582773,1.234589&geocode=FTYgBQIdlxby-CHOF9C9NmLEHimtUticTrTCgDHOF9C9NmLEHg%3BFfGEBgIdUAf0-CmFxTlWMMnCgDEM1T-RTM8_TA&mra=ls&t=m&z=12##Google Maps##

The sad story of Jesse Dotson, the army veteran and postal worker killed by a hit and run driver after a July 26 crash, would not have be a major news story without the potential involvement of an LAPD Sargent in a cover-up.

Jesse Dotson

Gardena police believe that 22 year old Vanessa Yanez was the driver who struck Dotson at 9:50 pm that fatal evening. Four hours later, Yanez called her local police in Huntington Park to report her car had been stolen and was found, heavily damaged, just a couple of blocks from her house. Yanez lives with her father, LAPD Sgt. Arturo Yanez, who also owns the car.

On July 29th, the same day Dotson died from his wounds, the officer investigating the “stolen car” in Huntington Park tipped off the Gardena police about the coincidence. The car was parked in the Yanez’s driveway.

On July 3, Yanez turned herself in to the police in Gardena, a surrender brokered by her lawyer. She admitted she had been drinking the night of the crash, but insisted her car was stolen and she was not driving it.

She is charged with felony hit and run, falsifying a police report, perjury, and vehicular manslaughter. Bail was set at $100,000, but she was released after signing a statement saying she would appear in court. The Gardena investigator, Lt. Steve Prendegast said such an arrangement is common when a suspect is cooperating.

Which seems a little odd, considering he believes she ran from a crime scene after killing someone and lied to the police about it.

The trial is likely to begin in October or later. The police need time to gather evidence and present their case to the District Attorney. It will take a month for DNA testing that is being completed on the car itself.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Yanez is a new black eye for the LAPD, who is already under fire for a somewhat lax attitude about its city’s hit and run epidemic. Sgt. Yanez is either painfully incompetent or aided and abetted his daughter’s perjury, false police report and bungled cover-up. Adding to his incompetence/deceitfulness, he basically assaulted an ABC7 camera crew trying to question his daughter on the way out of the police station. His tough guy posturing and bullying is the face of LAPD at its most entitled and arrogant.

At this point, Prendegast has not announced charges for Sgt. Yanez, and say he is not under investigation. However, if they uncover evidence that he was involved in a cover-up, he will be charged as well. At the same time, the LAPD is launching its own internal affairs
investigation into the Yanez case, a public show that the department isn’t happy with how Yanez’s actions reflect on them.

The launch of an LAPD investigation is one of the few pieces of good news in the story. Whatever one thinks of the Department’s record on hit and run crashes, we do know they hate cover-ups. It was just two years ago that a father got a small measure of jail time for hiding his daughter’s killing of a bicyclist. While they lack jurisdiction to arrest Yanez, at a minimum they can make sure he’s fired with prejudice, and doesn’t receive the city pension he “earned” over the last three decades. At a maximum, they can turn over whatever they find to their counterparts in Gardena.

Meanwhile, Jesse Dotson’s family is mourning and trying to move on. The grandfather and husband will not be coming home, the afterlife doesn’t set bail and then just let you walk back to where you started. As you might expect, they’re pretty angry about the cover-up and Yanez’s freedom, however temporary it turns out to be.

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