Drunk drivers either heading home to the Island or just passing through continue to wreak havoc, endangering lives, costing time and money, and causing traffic backups. Two recent incidents further illustrate this ongoing problem; one of them nearly resulted in injury to an officer.
Drunk Driver Hits and Runs
At approximately 7:25 in the evening of February 28, Officer Ben Sias was on the scene of a two-vehicle collision on 305 just south of Day Road. The vehicle that had caused the accident was extending three feet into the oncoming lane. The driver was sitting in the patrol car on city property directly across from the collision. Traffic was moving in both directions. Sias placed flares next to cones to divert northbound traffic around the damaged vehicle. He was wearing a bright yellow traffic vest for safety.
He looked south as he prepared to light the flares. He saw a northbound vehicle slowing for the disruption and behind it a van traveling much too fast, possibly 50 mph. He could see that the van would be unable to stop before hitting the vehicle in front of it. Just prior to impact, the van veered right onto the shoulder where Sias was standing. He leaped off the shoulder and across the ditch to the bank as the vehicle came careening down the shoulder. It then swung to the left to clear the damaged vehicle but sideswiped it and took out the cones. Although the driver came within four feet of striking Sias, the van never stopped; it just braked and then accelerated.
Sias called Cencom. The occupants of the vehicle that had slowed down before the van told Sias they would follow it.
Officer Gary Koon was in the vicinity of the Safeway at about the same time when he heard Sias report via radio that he had almost been hit by a Ford van with disabled plates that had also struck another vehicle. Sias reported that the van had not stopped after striking the vehicle and had turned east on Day Road.
Koon contacted Cencom and headed north on 305 toward Day. Cencom reported that a caller had provided the license plate number. Cencom ran the plate and provided an address for the vehicle owner on Sunrise.
The caller then reported that the vehicle turned down a private drive on Sunrise. Koon contacted the caller at the entrance to the drive and then proceeded down the drive on foot. A person sitting in the driver’s seat of the van was getting into a wheelchair. He exited the vehicle via a lift. Once he was safely on the ground, Koon approached him and identified himself. He told the man that he believed he had been involved in an accident on 305 at Day. The man said he had passed the accident but hadn’t hit anybody.
Koon detected a strong odor of alcohol. He asked the man several times how much he had had to drink, but he would only say that he hadn’t “drunk in a long time.” He wouldn’t say how long that was. His voice was slightly slurred. His eyes were bloodshot. Koon asked him if he would submit to field sobriety tests. He said no, he would not. Koon asked if he would provide a breath sample, and he said no.
Officer Ben Sias arrived on scene and identified the damage on the van from the collision. Sias was then called off on another call, and a Suquamish Tribal Police officer arrived to act as cover officer. Koon arrested the driver for DUI. Koon told him he did not believe he could transport him safely to the station for the breathalyzer test. He said he would have to have medical personnel come to his house for a blood draw. The man signed the consent form.
He then requested an attorney. Koon called the public defender and handed the phone to the man. The officers moved out of hearing distance. The man and the lawyer spoke for a little over 15 minutes. The man then refused to provide a blood test. He also refused to answer any questions related to alcohol consumption. Koon issued him a citation for DUI and hit and run and told him they were required by law to impound his vehicle and that he would have to get to court the next morning some other way.
Drunk Driver Winds Down the Highway
At approximately 2:51 in the afternoon of March 5, Cencom dispatched Suquamish units to a report of DUI. The reporting party was an employee of a Suquamish business. She said that the intoxicated driver lived on Bainbridge and was possibly en route home.
Officer Ben Sias acknowledged the call and checked the highway. He was unable to locate the vehicle and cleared the call at 3:24. Approximately ten minutes later, he noticed the described vehicle southbound on 305 from Suquamish Way. It was driving slowly and was at least one foot over the fog line. He used his emergency lights to alert drivers to get out of his way. He eventually got directly behind the vehicle and observed it cross the fog line at least two other times.
He followed her to her home and pulled up next to her as she parked in her driveway. He told her she had been called in as a DUI. She said she had not been drinking much. She was slurring her words and smelled of intoxicants. She interjected numerous topics such as religion and the arrest of her neighbor for DUI, but she would not answer whether she would perform some voluntary field sobriety tests or whether she would provide a breath sample.
Lieutenant Chris Jensen arrived, and the woman agreed to do the voluntary sobriety tests. The woman did terribly on the tests and kept stopping during the alphabet and having to start over. On finger dexterity, she started counting early and did it in the wrong order. On the one leg stand, she lost her balance at the count of nine even though her foot was only about one inch off the ground.
Sias placed her under arrest for DUI. During the ride to jail, the woman was shrieking and ranged from calm and friendly to angry, shouting, and crying. She yelled that she was going to heaven and Sias to hell. At the jail the woman didn’t ask for an attorney and she didn’t answer the question about the breath test. She kept asking what she should do, and Sias kept saying that he couldn’t give legal advice. Eventually the woman asked for an attorney. Sias offered to put her in touch with the public defender, and she agreed. Sias let them speak privately. The woman then agreed to take the test. She blew a .195 and .200. He issued her a criminal citation and booked her on $2500 bail.
Art by Mike Kline.