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A parolee was sentenced today to 21 years to life in state prison for intentionally striking and seriously injuring a Fremont police motorcycle officer with a stolen van two years ago. Alexander Diaz, 37, was convicted in June of premeditated attempted murder for ramming Officer Patrick Brower on Oct. 4, 2010. Diaz also was convicted of the unlawful driving and taking of a vehicle and of grand theft for stealing a delivery van with $33,000 worth of electronics inside while the driver was away making a delivery. Brower, now 44, who was a 10-year police veteran, was on his motorcycle when he saw the van a short time later as it turned onto Warm Springs Boulevard, police and prosecutors said.
Diaz then noticed Brower, floored the accelerator and aimed the van straight at the officer, according to prosecutors. Brower was pinned under the motorcycle and was dragged by the van across three traffic lanes before it struck a metal streetlight, sandwiching the officer and his motorcycle against the pole, authorities said. Brower was extracted from the scene by firefighters and sustained a number of critical injuries, including a compound fracture to his left leg, three fractured toes, a torn rotator cuff, knee damage and a torn tendon in his arm.
Diaz fled from the scene but was arrested in Los Angeles two days later. He was on parole for a previous grand theft conviction. Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler said today that it’s clear that Diaz intended to kill Brower and Diaz “literally ran over him” with the van. “By the grace of God and the light pole, he (Brower) didn’t die,” Steckler said. Steckler said Brower has undergone a number of surgeries but hopes to return to duty full-time sometime soon after one more operation. Brower already is doing light duty four hours a day, he said. Prosecutor Brian Owens said Diaz, a native of Cuba, “has shown absolutely no remorse” and blamed his actions on being high on drugs and suffering from a mental disorder.
“This is a cowardly effort by a violent man who won’t take responsibility for his actions,” Owens said. However, Diaz’s attorney, Barbara Thomas, said Diaz “was quite remorseful” when he was interviewed after he was arrested. Referring to Diaz’s plan to appeal his conviction, Thomas said, “Because of the nature of the Constitution, he can’t openly admit what he did or say he’s sorry for what he did.” Thomas said Diaz’s long history of using drugs affected his judgment and claimed, “he is not a cold-hearted attempted murderer.”
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy told Diaz, “This strikes me as a particularly despicable act on your part and one that was cowardly and callous.” Murphy said, “There’s absolutely no reason why he (Brower) should have to endure what he’s enduring.” The incident was the second attempted murder of a Fremont police officer in about five weeks. On Aug. 27, 2010, Officer Todd Young was shot and seriously wounded in Oakland. Reputed Union City gang member Andrew Barrientos has been sentenced to life in prison for his conviction on attempted murder and nine other felony counts.
Young has still not returned to work but still hopes to do so at some point in the future. Steckler said the serious injuries suffered by Brower and Young show that being a police officer “is a dangerous job.” He said officers don’t encounter life-threatening situations every day but must be ready to face them when they occur. About 12 Fremont officers joined Steckler in attending Diaz’s sentencing today.
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