Prosecutors have declined to file charges against a Desert Hot Springs man who police said was behind the wheel of a truck that struck and killed a 7-year-old boy along Lakewood Boulevard last year.
The District Attorney’s Office decided Tuesday not to bring charges against 58-year-old James Barnes, saying that there was insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors said Barnes was not intoxicated at the time of the crash and that statements given to police indicated that he couldn’t see 7-year-old Gabriel Garate as he was crossing the street because the sun was in his eyes.
“After reviewing all the statements in the report and (body-worn cameras) as to suspect’s statements, there is insufficient evidence to establish gross negligence sufficient to prove case beyond a reasonable doubt,” LADA Complaint Deputy Marilyn Seymour wrote in her evaluation sheet.
Police say Barnes was driving westbound on 23rd Street in a 2005 Dodge Ram pickup truck around 5:22 p.m. on July 26, 2022, when he failed to yield at a green light while making a left turn onto Southbound Lakewood Boulevard.
That’s when, according to authorities, Barnes crashed into Garate, who died at the scene.
Following the crash, Barnes remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, according to the Long Beach Police Department, who later took him into custody on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
Barnes later posted bond, and he has remained free ever since.
Although the DA’s office will not be filing any felony charges, the case can still be presented to the city prosecutor, who can determine whether to charge Barnes with any applicable misdemeanors, authorities said.