A USC campus safety officer pleaded no contest Wednesday to vehicular manslaughter in connection with the 2015 death of a student, whose car was struck by the officer’s speeding cruiser.
Appearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, Miguel Guerra, 37, entered the plea to the misdemeanor count and issued a formal apology to the family of Kelsey Dresser, the first-year graduate student who was killed.
A judge sentenced Guerra to 30 days in jail, 45 days of community labor, and three years of probation, according to Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.
After his sentencing, Guerra surrendered at Los Angeles County jail. He’s scheduled to be released Dec. 18. His attorney, Bill Genego, could not immediately be reached for comment. Guerra’s current employment status with USC was unclear.
“This was an unprecedented and heartbreaking event for the entire USC community and our condolences go out to the family and friends of Kelsey Dresser,” a university spokesman said in a statement.
Dresser, 23, was driving her 1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible west on Jefferson Boulevard about 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 3, 2015, when she turned left across traffic into the Royal Street entrance to campus, police said.
Guerra was heading east on Jefferson, responding to a report of a “stranger” in a parking garage, when he T-boned Dresser’s car, according to Craig McClellan, an attorney representing Dresser’s family in a civil lawsuit against USC.
The posted speed limit at the intersection was 25 mph, but McClellan said crash data from the officer’s car indicated he was driving at about 69 mph before the collision.
Upon impact, Dresser’s convertible skidded about 40 feet, coming to a stop near a fence at a university entrance, according to video of the collision released by McClellan’s office.
Dresser’s head banged against her car, causing internal injuries and brain damage. She was pronounced dead at a hospital the next day. The coroner listed the cause of death as traumatic head injuries.
Dresser had Marfan syndrome, an inherited disorder that weakens tissue that holds together skin, muscles and organs and is marked by enlarged hands and feet, impaired vision and heart issues.
Health conditions related to Marfan syndrome were a contributing cause of her death, along with a rare heart condition that can lead to sudden death, according to the coroner’s report. The Carlsbad native also had a history of seizures.
McClellan has previously said that Dresser was not limited by her medical conditions.
The lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 21, contends that Guerra was not properly trained or supervised by USC’s Department of Public Safety. The suit seeks unspecified damages and is pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.