California woman run over by lawn mower at park; family calls for death investigation

Christine Chavez was found dead in a park after being run over by a lawn mower.

(KCRA/KTVU) The family of a 27-year-old homeless woman in Modesto want somebody held accountable after she was found dead in the grass after a lawn mower ran her over, according to KCRA.

A spokesperson for the Modesto Police Department said that on Saturday around noon, a landscaper was cutting the grass at Beard Brook city park on a tractor with a pull-behind mower when he saw the body of Christine Chavez in the grass that he had already passed through.

That's when he called 911.

Chavez's father Christopher said that while his daughter often came by his home, she was homeless and often slept outside during the daytime.

The grieving father believes her death was preventable.

"We’re going to try everything to get justice," Christopher Chavez said.

The city doesn't manage Beard Brook Park anymore, according to the Modesto Bee. Earlier this year the Modesto City Council agreed to swap the park with E.&J. Gallo Winery in exchange for land along the Tuolumne River for a river walk. 

Gallo acquired the Beard Brook Park property on July 7, according to KCRA.

A spokesperson for the company said a landscaping contractor was hired to perform weed abatement and fire prevention services. 

She called the incident an accident and said the "individual who was not visible and laying in a tall, weeded area."

While the Stanislaus County Coroner is still investigating an official cause of death for Chavez, the family is demanding a thorough investigation by the Modesto Police Department.

Christoper Chavez said he does not understand how the driver could miss her – or why her body was not treated with more care by officials who investigated the matter.

"It's a lie that they didn't see her," Christopher Chavez said. "I’m going to keep going because I need to. I’m looking for justice, and I’m going to be there until something happens."

Dez Martinez, CEO and founder of the homeless advocacy group "We Are Not Invisible," is assisting the family in raising awareness about Chavez’s death. 

She said oftentimes it takes an advocate to get involved for these types of cases to be given a full investigation.

"Just because people are unhoused, it doesn’t mean they don’t have family. It doesn’t mean they’re not somebody’s daughter or son," Martinez said.