By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — Jose Diaz, 24, of Lawrence, was fighting for his life in Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital yesterday as Nathan Sanborn Jr., 21, of Kensington, N.H. was arraigned in Lawrence District Court on charges he struck Diaz with his Ford F-150 pickup while driving drunk Saturday night.
Diaz, who was walking at Haverhill and Warren streets, was thrown 20 feet in the air and launched 100 feet after Sanborn “plowed” into him at 9:23 p.m., according to police and court reports.
Diaz was in “extremely critical condition” yesterday with head injuries, including brain swelling, prosecutor Lindsay Nasson said.
Eliel Diaz said he witnessed his cousin being “‘hit and launched” Saturday night. He immediately rushed to help Jose, who asked him “if he was going to die,” Eliel Diaz said.
After Sanborn was brought into the courtroom yesterday afternoon, Diaz’s family members, including his mother, siblings and cousins, sobbed loudly. Nasson asked for bail to be set at $25,000 but when Judge Kevin Gaffney set it at $15,000, Diaz’s family members started yelling as they left the courtroom.
“My brother is fighting for his life,” one man said.
“We need justice. He’s dying,” another woman said, as court officers followed the family out of the courtroom.
Family members brought to court a photo of Diaz on life support at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.
Saturday night, police were sent to the vicinity of 514 Haverhill St. after getting calls about a pedestrian hit by a truck. Police officer Wayne Taylor, who was working a detail in the area, was the first to provide first aid to Diaz.
Then, as paramedics treated Diaz, officers spoke with Sanborn, of 281 South Road, Kensington, N.H., who was sitting at the wheel of his black 2013 Ford F-150.
Officers said they smelled both alcohol and urine on Sanborn. He told police he’d been drinking at Hans Garden in Haverhill and had two beers. A breath test showed his blood alcohol level was .17, twice the legal limit, according to court papers.
Sanborn refused to take field sobriety tests and was placed under arrest for drunken driving, negligent operation and drunken driving resulting in an accident with serious bodily injury.
Nasson said if the case is tried at the district court level, Sanborn faces a minimum of six months in prison. If he is indicted on the charges and arraigned at the superior court level, Sanborn faces 2 1/2 years in jail, she said.
“The fact is, this defendant is 100 percent going to jail,” Nasson said.
During booking at the Lawrence police station, Nasson said, Sanborn “made extremely hateful and racist remarks” about Diaz.
Diaz, who is not married, works at Burger King on Route 28 in Salem, N.H., family members said.
Sanborn’s attorney, Christopher Holland of Haverhill, said his client, who had never faced arraignment before, was a 2010 graduate of Sanborn Regional High School who went on to become a union electrician. Sanborn primarily works out of Boston, he said.
He asked Gaffney to set bail at $5,000 cash, noting Sanborn has strong ties to the community. Numerous members of his family and his girlfriend attended the arraignment yesterday, many weeping as he was brought into court shackled and handcuffed. He was dressed in a gray sweatshirt, olive carpenter’s pants and work boots.
Sanborn, Holland said, understands he faces a mandatory jail sentence. But Holland noted police found him in his vehicle at the scene of the accident.
“He did not attempt to flee,” Holland said.
He also said Sanborn’s grandparents are long time Haverhill residents.
Setting bail at $15,000, Gaffney ordered Sanborn not to drink alcohol, submit to random urinalysis and report to the probation department once a week. He also banned him from driving in Massachusetts unless properly licensed.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.