Manuel Flores Jr. was arraigned Friday in Santa Barbara Superior Court on a charge of vehicular manslaughter. Flores was driving a flatbed truck up Milpas Street on October 7 when he hit and killed 15-year-old Sergio Romero, who was crossing the street in a crosswalk.
Flores, 19, pled no contest to the misdemeanor charge, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter. He’ll be sentenced on March 16 and faces a maximum of one year in County Jail. It will be up to the judge to determine the sentence.
Flores also faces a civil lawsuit filed by Romero’s family, who allege Flores was acting negligently when the accident occurred. Romero’s parents want to be compensated for funeral and burial expenses, hospital and medical costs, wage loss, loss of use of property, and loss of earning capacity. Civil court filings say that Flores was working for California Shopping Cart Retrieval Corp. (CSCRC) at the time of the accident, collecting carts in his father’s vehicle. Also named in the suit are Scolari’s, Manuel Flores Sr., and CSCRC.
The incident spurred an organized outcry from Milpas area residents who’ve complained for years that the corridor lacks proper traffic safety elements, such as stoplights and enough crosswalks. City planners explained at a recent neighborhood meeting that while stoplights can’t be installed for state-mandated reasons, they’re developing other safety strategies, such as restriping lanes and adding pedestrian islands with flashing lights along existing crosswalks.
During a crosswalk sting last month at the same intersection where Romero was killed — Milpas and Ortega streets — Santa Barbara police cited 28 drivers for not stopping for a decoy pedestrian in the crosswalk.