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Widow of 'Singing Cowboy' Gene Autry kills pedestrian while driving in Palm Springs

Jackie_autry  The 69-year-old widow of famed “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry struck and killed a homeless man while driving in Palm Springs on Thanksgiving Day, authorities said.

Jackie Autry struck 50-year-old Jesus Cardova Diaz as she was driving on Sunrise Way, north of Ramon Road, said Det. Steve Woodward, a traffic investigator with the Palm Springs Police Department.

Diaz was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center, where he later died, Woodward said.

Diaz, who was believed to be homeless, was not in a crosswalk when he was struck. Autry was not cited and did not undergo a blood alcohol test because it was clear she was not under the influence, Woodward said.

Investigators were awaiting autopsy results to see if Diaz was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


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-- Stephen Ceasar

Photo: Jackie Autry in 2002. Credit: Amy Sanchetta / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (96)

I do love LA times censorship. Is it by the editors or the storyteller I wonder.

Oh and this one won't get through either.

some of the comments about wrongdoing on the part of the police and / or this lady are simply nuts - get a grip folks this was some addle-headed homeless idiot - not great he died, but I feel worse for Mrs Autry and what this person put her through

how was it clear that she wasn't under the influence?

Ok... Slow down with jumping to conclusions. Sunrise and Ramon are very dangerous for pedestrians. We lose quite a few every year out here. Our police force is small but very professional. Yes, Jackie is well known and has been an active member of this community for many years. This does not assure her any special rights. If the officers at the accident scene had any indication that she was driving while under the influence, she would have been cited and arrested. Politically, I am as liberal as they come, however, when you jump to conclusions you may not have an understanding of how such an accident can happen. I have had two cars totaled nearby (on Ramon) one in 1981 and another in 1995. The traffic and conditions have not changed dramatically. To assume one is getting a special break because of her wealth has much larger implications such as corruption with our police and public safety workers. Don't count on it. There may be place for conspiracy theories in our society, but I doubt it very much that that our law enforcement in Palm Springs is involved. My sympathy to the victims here. Both the man's family and to Jackie who in all likelihood was probably traumatized by this experience.

Opinions, idle speculation, rumor,verbal diarrhea, gossip, libel, etc.
Was anybody there as a witness? I didn't think so. If this accident had occurred in South Central L.A., or similar environs...Mrs. Autry would've probably been beaten with a brick...remember Florence and Normandie?

Something is TERRIBLY WRONG here...

The victim gets the alcohol test and not the driver!!!

Wow, you people . . . has any one of you ever WORKED as a police officer? Immediately it becomes discrimination against the dead jaywalker? If the woman was oriented and coherent, she has a right to go home without a test, just like everyone else. Any one of you even think maybe this was really horrible for her? No? Because she's white and "rich" it's OK for a guy to walk in front of her car? Sheeesh. Next we'll hear that the homeless person's relatives are suing her.

"I'm glad that I'm not the only Angeleno bothered, if not outraged, by what the way Palm Springs Police has shown blatant bias in favor of the rich and powerful and against the destitute. "

You haven't the first clue what really happened. You are reading a short news story and jumping to conclusions. "Blatant" bias? Seriously? Maybe the writer of the story should have followed up and explained why the police deemed Mrs. Autry not under the influence. But no, you'll sit in judgment, because you know everything.

Hey - Why is this woman allowed to hit and kill someone with a car (considered a murder weapon in this case) when you and I would go to jail if we hit someone with our cars? Homeless or not, the bottom line is that if you get in a car and drive behind the wheel and hit someone you should have some accountability and responsibility for killing someone - in a crosswalk or homeless are irrelevant issues. The bottom line is that somebody DIED.

"How was it 'believed' he was homeless? How was it 'clear' she was not under the influence?"
Good questions--for the reporter.

@dee gee
No, the pedestrian does NOT have the "right of way period". Only in a crosswalk does that apply, and even then, only until safely passed the driver (they don't have to be fully clear of the intersection, see People V McLachlan.)

21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to
a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or
within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise
provided in this chapter.
(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of
using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly
leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path
of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a
marked or unmarked crosswalk.

my bet it is is an illegal and he came here for a better life

Contrary to the earlier comment about Autry not being tested because she was rich -- generally, people get tested for drugs or alcohol if the authorities are under the impression that they are. And, I do agree that no charges should be pressed against her, yes, a person may have died in the accident but drivers may not be held liable if the pedestrian himself was negligent and caused the accident to occur. FYI, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, pedestrians had the highest proportion of BACs at or above 0.08 percent (38 percent).


I lived in Palm Springs for three years, and in fact, near the area where Mr. Ramos was killed. Many of the streets in this area and other areas of Palm Springs do not have sidewalks, let alone crosswalks. There's the road, and sand on the side of the road. You either slog through sand or walk on the edge of the road. Personally, I preferred to walk on the edge of the road. I seriously doubt that you can say Mr. Ramos was walking illegally in the street. I would say human life has the right of way sidewalk / crosswalk or not...

Was Jesus Cardova Diaz a legal resident or an ILLEGAL ALIEN ?

Un Happy Trails

Here is a piece of advice, Malby: learn to read. No one is saying that the driver was at fault. But, we are saying that a proper, unbiased investigation should be conducted. Perhaps the fact that she is a very prominent figure in the Palm Springs community has a lot more to do with how 'obvious' it is that she was or was not intoxicated. You are right, this short news article has a lot of holes, but from what little is reported it is clear that the police has jumped to conclusions instead of investigating.
And, no, this complaint is not about 'White' or "Hispanic". But, it is about how the police treats the powerful with a great deal of deference. If you need a reminder, think Mel Gibson.

2nd degree murder reckless driving/negligence she should be thrown in jail...Oh yeah she has money. She can walk away from a life she's stolen.

Why all the outrage ? ..... Jackie did society a favor, Jesus is in a better (hope!) place, CA taxpayers save a little money, crime rate in Palm Springs goes down a smidge....that's called a win win people !

Bill, at 5:36 PM, thank you for your insightful comments, and a background on the scene of the accident. Very much appreciated.

Sorry for the man who died, but he was jaywalking, which is extremely dangerous. It was a poor choice on his part and in this instance, it cost him his life. Sorry, but pedestrians have responsibilies, too. They are required to cross the road at a marked crossing. This is not a case of racism on the part of any city officials. It's a sad case of poor choice on the dead man's part. You play frogger, you might get squished. And that's what happened here. Happens many times a day in cities around the world. Wise up, play by the rules, obey the law. It's that simple and it could save your life.

It really is sad, the amount of bigotry directed towards Mrs. Autry, just because she is either white, well-off, or both. There are many unfortunate instances in which for some reason or other a pedestrian is killed by a motorist in which the motorist is not held to be at fault, and the motorist is not sent to jail, nor is the motorist even arrested at the scene if they were not impaired and were driving legally. It often happens at night, in areas with already unsafe conditions for pedestrians due to multiple factors, but there are several different scenarios in which this has happened and the driver has not been arrested or jailed, merely questioned about the accident, often at the scene.

The amount of pitchfork-and-torches kind of posts here directed towards Mrs. Autry merely because of her ethnicity or economic class shows a poor display of bigotry on the part of those who have made such comments.

The linked-to headline below the article is, "Band members who blocked Hollywood Freeway charged with felonies."

Sure, block the 101 and irritate 1000 people and receive a felony charge. Kill a pedestrian in Palm Springs and get off scot-free. At least we're starting to realize more precisely where our ethics stand.

Just maybe it doesn't make sense to rush to judgement about a news blurb that is six sentences long? Not a lot of info here. Unless you were a witness there is really no way to judge if anyone was in the wrong here. Accidents happen but the main point is there is not nearly enough info in this article to determine that Ms. Autry is guilty of anything other than bad luck or, on the other hand, that the homeless man is at fault himself. If you want to be angry at anyone, maybe question the author not giving further information on things written here. In the end it's a sad situation for everyone involved. Point is, we don't know.

Cops can smell booze on your breath, people. She didn't get any special treatment. I know a professioanal bus driver who killed a man who ran out into the highway in front of him. They talked to the driver (who never drinks while driving), and he was not tested nor cited.

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