Update: Though not in custody when this story was written, the suspect was arrested hours later Thursday evening.
By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
The Goshen County Attorney’s Office has filed a felony charge against the father of a Torrington police officer implicated in a hit-and-run that seriously injured a Torrington pedestrian six weeks ago.
With the filing, Juan Gomez Gallardo, 68, is publicly identified for the first time since the investigation began Oct. 26, the day of the crash. He was taken into the Goshen County Sheriff’s custody Thursday evening.
Goshen County Attorney Eric Boyer told Cowboy State Daily he filed the charge against Gomez Gallardo on Thursday morning. Boyer said he could not comment further on the case.
Gomez Gallardo faces a felony aggravated assault charge, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 fines.
Other charges against Gomez Gallardo include the following misdemeanors:
Failing to remain on scene following a hit and run (up to one year in jail and a fine of $5,000).
Failure to give his personal and vehicle information and render assistance to the victim (a fine of up to $200).
Failure to maintain insurance coverage (up to six months in jail and a fine between $500 and $1,500).
‘Knew He’d Find A Body’
The hit-and-run happened at about 7 a.m. Oct. 26, according to victim statements and the evidentiary affidavit filed in the case.
Andrea Griffin, 64, was walking through a crosswalk in her red coat on her way to her secretarial job.
Griffin told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that she nearly always walks to her job.
“I remember looking up at the (crosswalk) light and I still had – oh, I don’t know – 14 seconds to get clear across the intersection,” said Griffin.
A slice of time fell away.
“The next thing I remember is trying to stand up; someone holding me down saying, ‘Don’t move, you might have neck and spine injuries,’” Griffin continued. “That was the first inkling to me that anything was wrong.”
Griffin soon learned she was cradled on the legs of a bus driver who had witnessed the accident and leapt to her aid, whom she chose not to identify by name.
“He told me when he got to me he just knew he’d find a body and not a living person,” said Griffin.
Griffin has since learned her head left a dent on the hood of the SUV that struck her, she said. She’s been told she was launched entirely over the car and landed behind it.
Bus cameras captured the vehicle and Griffin approaching the intersection at the same time but did not capture the incident, according to an affidavit filed in the case. Another video from a nearby convenience store showed the vehicle driving away but didn’t capture the impact.
Both videos show that Gomez Gallardo “did not come to a stop after the collision or make any effort to check and see if there had been a collision,” the affidavit reads.
‘In The Middle Of The Highway’
Griffin’s brother Kelly also arrived on scene. He had been on his way to work, she said, and when he noticed “something major was going on,” he tried to direct traffic, “because the bus driver and I were both in the middle of the highway and the traffic was still flowing.”
Griffin’s brother called her husband. The bus driver radioed the bus garage for a 911 call.
“I imagine I laid between that man’s legs for 20 minutes until the ambulance got there,” Griffin said.
An ambulance took her to the local emergency room, where she remembers being cognizant. Then she was taken by air to Greeley, where she soon underwent two surgeries lasting about six hours together.
At about 8 a.m. that morning, a Torrington Police Department officer simply identified as Gomez received a call from his father, Gomez Gallardo, the affidavit states.
Gomez Gallardo told his son he believed he may have hit someone earlier that day, the affidavit reads.
The officer had been helping with the crash scene. He “immediately” reported his dad’s statement to a police sergeant, the affidavit states.
The Torrington Police Department, noting a conflict, turned the case over to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
The document says Gomez Gallardo came to the police station to be interviewed.
‘Something Didn’t Feel Right’
A Wyoming Highway Patrol agent met with Gomez Gallardo in an interview room at the police station, with a Spanish-speaking interpreter present. The affidavit says Gomez Gallardo said he understood his rights and agreed to speak to the agent.
Gomez Gallardo said he was on his way to work when he made a left turn onto the highway. He heard an impact but didn’t see anything, the affidavit relates, adding that he said he stopped to look behind but did not get out of his vehicle.
When he arrived at work, Gomez Gallardo reportedly said that “something didn’t feel right,” and when he checked his car, he saw a broken driver’s side headlight, the affidavit reads. That was when he called his son.
Gomez Gallardo said he couldn’t afford insurance, the document notes.
The patrolman studied the vehicle and discovered a crack in the front bumper, a broken piece of the grille, slight crumpling in the hood and a circular dent in the hood, plus two small spots of blood on the passenger side fender.
He interviewed a witness who had been stopped behind the school bus at the time of the collision. This witness said it looked like the vehicle swerved right to dislodge Griffin from its hood, the affidavit states.
‘Really, Really Broken’
Griffin spent three weeks in the hospital. She had skull fractures, cheek and facial fractures, Griffin said, adding that her left arm was fractured to the point of requiring three plates and numerous screws. Her left hip was totally replaced. Her right wrist was broken.
“I’m just really, really broken and this guy drove off and left me for dead basically,” she said.
Griffin is “kinda” ambulatory, she said with a tearful chuckle.
She has braces on both arms and uses what she and her husband call “The Contraption” – an enormous walker. She sometimes can ambulate using a cane, but isn’t supposed to put any weight on her left arm and may put limited weight on her right arm, Griffin said.
She hasn’t been able to work, she said, because her job requires some moving between rooms, standing and squatting to file documents.
A former Wyoming Highway Patrolman criticized the agency throughout the six weeks between the collision and the charges, saying the WHP should have publicly identified the suspect.
WHP said it does not publicly name suspects until they are arrested or charged. The charges against Gomez Gallardo came the same day Cowboy State Daily reported an update on the case.
Griffin said she understood the delay and felt it was because of a legitimate reason, though certain “archaic” laws in Wyoming should be changed to address the scenario.
Griffin was vague, saying she did not want to jeopardize the case by divulging too much.
She expressed full support in Boyer and said she believes the prosecutor has been “struggling greatly to make this happen.”
Care, Prayer, Food, Cards And Flowers
The community has been lovely toward Griffin, she said.
“I have been overwhelmed by the response that I have gotten from my local community in care, in prayer, in food, cards, flowers – it’s been remarkable,” she said. “And very humbling.”
Griffin said she is missing her paycheck but is grateful that she works for a “wonderful company” that has been covering her insurance costs.
“But I’ve got to get back to work,” Griffin said, adding that she’s been a very active person outside of her work as well.