City News Service

USC Safety Officer Apologizes to Family of Grad Student Killed in Crash

Miguel Guerra, 37, apologized to family members in court Wednesday

A USC Department of Public Safety Officer pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge for causing a car crash that killed a 23-year-old graduate student from Carlsbad.

Miguel Guerra, 37, was immediately sentenced to three years probation, 30 days in jail and 45 days of community labor. He was also ordered to pay restitution, but a hearing will be held Feb. 1 to determine the amount, according to Frank Mateljan of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.

Guerra was driving a police cruiser around 6:30 a.m. Dec. 3, 2015, when he slammed into a car being driven by Kelsey Dresser, 23, who died of her injuries the following day. The T-bone collision was captured on a security camera.

Guerra publicly apologized to Dresser's family in court, Mateljan said. Parents Mike and Jill Dresser told NBC7 they sought the apology, which brought "some closure."

"He said that there isn't a day that goes by he doesn't think about Kelsey and we're in his thoughts and prayers every day," Mike Dresser said.

Dresser's parents, Michael and Jill Dresser, sued USC in September, contending that Guerra had worked consecutive graveyard shifts and was short on sleep when the crash occurred as he responded to a report of a "stranger" in a parking lot.

"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 to the Los Angeles Times.

Guerra was driving east on Jefferson Boulevard at just under 70 mph in a 25 mph zone, without his lights or siren activated, the suit alleges. Dresser had just turned left from Jefferson onto Royal Street near an entrance to the university, according to the suit.

"He (Guerra) did not watch out for traffic ahead of him as he was either using his cell phone, his DPS vehicle computer monitor or he was falling asleep," the suit alleges.

USC public safety officials knew of the dangers of driving a campus police car with insufficient sleep, but allowed Guerra to do so anyway, the suit states.

Dresser graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2014 with a degree in psychology and was enrolled at the USC Rossier School of Education.

According to jail records, Guerra was booked shortly after noon Wednesday, and -- due to standard jail credits -- has a projected release date of Dec. 18.

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