'Distracted driving' death could prove costly for Fresno police officer

Investigators say Jose Pulido spent more than 20 seconds crossing the street before a police car hit him just before he finished.

Video Transcript

GRACIELA MORENO: A first police officer accused of deadly distracted driving could create a cost for himself and the city's taxpayers. The court case took one step forward today.

JASON OLIVEIRA: Action News Reporter Corin Hoggard is live in downtown Fresno with those details and the evidence that led police to arrest one of their own officers, Corin.

CORIN HOGGARD: Jason, investigators say Jose Pulido spent more than 20 seconds crossing the street and he almost made it to the other side when a Fresno police car hit him. They believe the officer who hit him did not have his eyes on the road.

Fresno police detective Benito Soto testified in a murder trial three years ago. But on Monday, Soto was the defendant whose attorney entered a plea on his behalf.

ROGER WILSON: Accused of not guilty to a misdemeanor count and the three infractions.

CORIN HOGGARD: Prosecutors charged Soto with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of 51-year-old Jose Pulido. The homeless man was pushing a bicycle across Fresno street when Soto hit and killed him in an unmarked Fresno police car. Police said Soto had a green light but they say it's still a driver's responsibility to avoid a pedestrian unless the person jumps in front of the car at the last second.

An arrest warrant in this case says video shows Pulido spent more than 20 seconds crossing the street. In the warrant investigators, also say they got phone records showing Soto was texting to Pulido in the minutes before the crash. They say he got his last text 8 seconds before hitting Pulido and his text box shows he was responding to that text.

TONY CAPOZZI: That's pretty strong evidence that he was texting when he should have been watching what's going on.

CORIN HOGGARD: Police say Soto is now on modified duty pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation. He's been an officer for more than 13 years and this is his second misdemeanor charge in that time after a 2012 DUI. Friends in the homeless community remembered Pulido with a painting and a vigil in the weeks after his death. Legal analyst Tony Capozzi says Soto may have also given Toledo's family a reason to sue the city.

TONY CAPOZZI: His aunt city time is within the scope of employment. He was negligent. Should the city be responsible, they may well be in this particular case.

CORIN HOGGARD: Soto faces no more than one year in jail if he's convicted. He's due back in court in August. Live in downtown Fresno, Corin Hoggard, ABC 30 Action News.