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PHOENIX — Beatrice X. Johnson remembers the last thing her sister said to her.
“I just talked to her,” Johnson said. “She said ‘I love you lil’ sis.’”
She was visiting her sister, Dorothy Dale Chambers, at Perry Park, where Dorothy lived unsheltered. The park is among the top spots in Phoenix for calls regarding homelessness and encampments.
Johnson said she’d bring her sister food and would welcome regular visits from family. Her sister chose to stay at the park. They never thought she’d be killed in the road right next to it.
Dorothy and her boyfriend, Joseph Gutierrez, were struck and killed by a truck on April 26 as they were crossing 32nd Street at the Yale Street intersection, about a quarter mile south of Thomas Road.
“We did a welfare check every week,” Beatrice explained. “And my niece went to go check on her. And that’s how we found out she had been killed. And she was laying in the morgue for eight days.”
Investigation records indicate witnesses felt the truck driver was going too fast. The driver told police that he didn’t see the couple crossing the road. The police report shows the driver stayed on the scene and tried to help.
The driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.031, which is below the legal limit, and has never faced any charges. Phoenix Police said in an email that the driver did not show signs and symptoms consistent with impairment and that the case is still under investigation, pending reconstruction review.
“My sister was not a throw away,” Beatrice stated. “Neither was Joseph. Neither are those people who are in the park. They are human beings.”
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The intersection at Yale and 32nd streets technically is a crosswalk. You can see paint on the road, but when 12News went to the scene in early August, we saw one sign on the ground and another that appeared to be blocked by leaves. There weren’t any crosswalk lights and when people tried to cross during rush hour, cars didn’t stop.
“We’re demanding that they fix that. We demanded that they make that area better.”
The 12News I-Team examined ADOT data from 2018 to 2020 and found dozens of car crashes each year in the five blocks by Perry Park, from Yale Street to Thomas Road:
That data includes crashes with other vehicles or crashes with pedestrians.
ADOT data for wrecks from 2021 or 2022, when more people experiencing homelessness started staying by the park, is not yet available.
The busy street is a problem people living in the neighborhood pointed out and something Phoenix City Councilmember Carlos Garcia even acknowledged when we toured the park with him in June to talk about homelessness.
“We had an unsheltered person who unfortunately died last month who was hit by a car right here,” Councilmember Garcia said in June.
The city’s known since at least May 2020, before Dorothy and Joseph died, that 32nd Street between McDowell and Thomas Roads is considered a high density crash zone, according to the City’s Key Corridor’s Master Plan from May 2020.
In December 2020, Phoenix put out a call for bids to work on four different crosswalk projects across the city, including the intersection at Yale and 32nd streets.
The Phoenix City Council approved a contractor to do the work in April 2021.
And all four signal projects were supposed to be completed by the end of May 2022, according to the work contract. But that didn’t happen.
And at the end of July 2022, the contractor requested an extension to Sept. 12, 2022, blaming supply chain issues.
The city signed off on the extension August 3, 2022, but it’s not clear when the work will be done.
As of the last day in August, three of the four projects don’t appear to be operational.
Over email, a city spokesperson provided the 12News I-Team with an explanation for the delays:
The project delays are due to a shortage of staff resources and supply chain issues. While work on the HAWK at 32nd Street and Yale Street looks substantially finished, our staff is working to complete the final electrical connections and inspections required prior to it being energized. A specific activation date has not yet been set, but staff anticipates it will be activated by late September.
Change in slow-motion, while Beatrice’s family continues to mourn.
“We don’t want any other family to get killed over there,” she said.
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Award-winning journalism and fact checking from the 12 News investigation team.
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