Mission Moment – February 2020

Sergeant Mark Bustamante, Pima County, AZ Sheriff’s Department

The Unasked Question

On December 10, 2016, I was one of the supervisors for our DUI Task Force that evening. One of our deputies stopped a vehicle traveling 71 MPH in a 45 MPH zone. He requested a backup unit, and I responded.

He advised me in our cop or DUI code that he had a possible drunk driver. He made the arrest, and he escorted her to his vehicle. The deputy told the lady, identified as Yessenia Gonzalez, to get into the vehicle. She refused, and she put her foot in the rear wheel well of the vehicle. I pulled the foot away, and she was forcibly placed in the car by us. I lost focus for a split second, and she kicked me in the left eye with the heel of her boot.

I knew right there that I lost my eye. More units arrived, and Gonzalez was taken to another vehicle by another deputy, and he was assaulted by her as well. Her Blood Alcohol Concentration was .194.

I was advised by the County Attorney assigned my case that Gonzales was evaluated by a doctor and determined to be insane at the time she kicked out my eye. I asked how could this be? She had a BAC almost two and a half times the legal limit. Another evaluation was conducted on Gonzalez by another doctor. This doctor also determined Gonzalez to be insane at the time of the incident as well. Two doctors evaluated Gonzalez months after the incident, and she was probably sober.

I did not, and I still do not know how this diagnosis can be made without the consideration of alcohol and its effects to Gonzalez during that life changing evening. I figured the questions I asked would be answered in court.

They never would be answered. The County Attorney wanted to plea this case out due to two doctors giving the same diagnosis. In Arizona, Guilty Except Insane is an affirmative defense. Let’s see what a jury will say about this.

A plea of three years probation eligible was offered and taken without advising me. As the victim I have rights. One of these rights is to be informed and to ask for my input. I forwarded this information to friends, and it somehow made it back to the County Attorney’s Office. I received a phone call from the Pima County Attorney herself Barbara LaWall. She stated she was sorry for what happened to me. She stated that there never was a time that two doctors gave the same diagnosis. She asked me what I wanted her office to do. I told her I wanted her to take this case to trial. She stated she would.

Another attorney was assigned to help the case. During this case, one of the attorneys took another job with the Attorney General, and the other one was promoted to Chief Criminal Deputy. He is running for Pima County Attorney in 2020. A third attorney was given this case. The plea was offered again and accepted for three years probation eligible. I was told that we would probably lose the case because of the evaluations, and that Gonzalez would be held accountable for her actions during probation.

I spoke in front of the judge explaining I was not informed of the plea offer. It was not explained what exactly the plea entails regarding amounts of time Gonzalez would have to serve. The original charges were dismissed or watered down to its barest elements. Minimal charge equals minimal sentence.

At the Sentencing, I expressed my displeasure with the way my case was handled by the County Attorney’s Office. I was victimized as much by them as I was by Gonzalez. I explained no one had the courage to ask questions regarding insanity, PTSD, high levels of alcohol and how they affect the body. What was in control of Gonzalez when she resisted arrest and kicked out my eye? Sane drunks have assaulted and injured police and first responders. My daughter is a sophomore in high school, and she said that drinking alcohol changes one’s behavior. This will set a very bad precedent in the future for law enforcement and first responders. But no one wants the answers to those questions.

In the end, Gonzalez was sentenced to 5 years probation and 90 days in jail. She was taken into custody right there. The 5 years probation and 90 days in Jail are from her plea to the charge of DUI over .15, and the sentences of Arizona DUI laws.

I would like to thank the Tucson Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They have supported my family and I through this.

*Editor’s Note*

After the assault on Sergeant Bustamante, he lost the use of his left eye. The injury in turn ended his career in law enforcement as he was forced to take early retirement. This life changing event for Mark is an example of the dangers our law enforcement heroes face each time they put the uniform on and walk out the door for their tour of duty. MADD appreciates and salutes heroes like Sergeant Bustamante who place themselves on the front lines in the face of these threats and dangers to make all our communities a safer place.

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