When Shiloh Delgadillo hit a telephone pole while driving under the influence on June 5, the crash triggered a notification to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which initiated an investigation known as TRACE, or target responsibility for alcohol-connected emergencies.
The investigation will dig into how and where Delgadillo, 18, obtained the alcohol, according to Brandon Shotwell, supervising agent in charge.
“They’re some of the most sensitive investigations because they involve death or serious injury against minors,” Shotwell said.
Delgadillo, of Nipomo, sustained major injuries after stepping on a live power line downed in the crash, which occurred near Highway 166 and Bull Canyon Road. He died 12 days later, on June 17, at Marian Regional Medical Center.
The TRACE program was initially prompted by the death of Casey Goodwin, a 20-year-old Cuesta College student and Exeter native who was killed March 12, 2003, after a speeding driver collided with her vehicle along Highway 41 near Kettleman City.
Investigators determined that the other driver, 18-year-old Fernando Ochoa, had been drinking shortly before the collision and he received the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for gross vehicular manslaughter, according to The Sun-Gazette.
Goodwin’s mother, Lynne, approached state officials about why investigators hadn’t pursued the people who provided the alcohol to Ochoa.
Two years later the program added a dedicated unit run by Shotwell, whose agents are specifically tasked to investigate alcohol-related incidents. The unit is composed of five agents, including Shotwell, who cover the entire state.
TRACE includes a protocol that requires first responders to notify the ABC when an emergency situation includes several criteria, such as involving alcohol, a person under the age of 21 and whether it resulted in great bodily injury or death.
In 2020, the program was updated to include anyone charged with gross vehicular manslaughter in the incident and who was under the influence of alcohol at the time, regardless of their age, according to Shotwell. There’s also a TRACE app that allows police officials to quickly relay information to the ABC.
Once the investigation begins, agents move quickly to preserve evidence, including receipts, alcoholic beverage containers, bags that might contain business logos and multiple interviews.
“Any clues that we obtain, including going to hospitals to conduct interviews with people who can lead us back to the furnisher of the alcohol, is what we’re looking for,” Shotwell said, adding that sources could include a business such as a bar, or even a house party.
Investigation outcomes could lead to administrative penalties against business owners, including fines, loss of alcohol licenses or criminal charges.
Under Government Code Sec. 1714(b)(1), a person hosting a party could be held civilly liable if a guest under 21 consumes alcohol and then causes death or injury to another person.
An 18-year-old Nipomo man sustained major injuries Saturday after he was shocked by electricity following a vehicle collision with a power pole near Highway 166 and Bull Canyon Road.
If the ABC recommends criminal charges as a result of an investigation, the recommendation will be filed with the local district attorney’s office, which ultimately makes the determination to pursue charges, according to Shotwell.
The ABC has conducted at least 60 TRACE investigations in the last three years, although that number has risen sharply, Shotwell said, adding that agents have initiated at least 41 TRACE investigations in 2021 as of June 18.
Shotwell’s unit is small, but can rely on other ABC agents to assist with investigations.
Additionally, the ABC provides TRACE-related training for up to 200 law enforcement agencies across the state via grant funding each year, according to Shotwell.
Programs similar to TRACE have spread to other states, whose law enforcement agencies have reached out to Shotwell for help.
“Ideally it would be nice to have every state have a similar program in place,” Shotwell said, adding that members of the public could also file reports with the ABC. “If you see anything that doesn’t look right that involves public safety issues surrounding alcohol misuse, feel free to contact us and local law enforcement.”