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Store clerk watches as driver plows into donut shop

AUBURN, Wash. — A driver suspected to be under the influence of drugs crashed into an Auburn donut shop in spectacular fashion narrowly missing two customers Friday morning.

Surveillance video shows a white truck southbound in the 900 block of Auburn Way where there is a curve. The driver veers off the roadway and crashes into concrete barriers that surround the front of the Donut Star just after 8:30 a.m.

At the same time, two customers try to enter the side door of the store, right there the truck would have crashed into the building. The concrete barriers prevented the truck from hitting the store and a female customer.

“She was so frighten, she was just shaking,” says May Poy, a clerk at the family owned business who was behind the counter at the time. “She said she could have died, she saw it coming right at her.”

Remarkably, Poy says no one was injured in the crash including the unidentified woman who was between the crashing truck and the store.

“It sounded like thunder, big giant thunder,” says Poy.

Auburn Police arrested a 22 year old man on suspicion of driving under the influence of something “other than alcohol”. Police also believe he may have been responsible for a hit-and-run accident seconds earlier a few blocks away.

This is not the first time the store has been hit by a vehicle. Police have recorded 5 incidents of vehicles hitting the donut shop since that started keeping records in 1998.

“Since we took it over three years ago, there have been a couple of times they’ve been missing the building,” says Poy. “There’s a light post right there that’s been replace five times.”

The pole has yet to be replaced.

She says several years ago, when her aunt ran the shop, their insurance company required the installation of the concrete blocks. It prevented an SUV from plowing into the shop in 2009.

“It’s kind of scary, people drive fast around the corner, but this is the first accident we’ve had during the day,” says Poy.

This time the concrete blocks saved more than the store, it saved a life.

Man accused of distributing nitrous oxide cans & DUI

MARTIN COUNTY — A Lake Worth man was charged Monday with unlawfully distributing nitrous oxide and driving under the influence.

Deputies said Austen Bemis, 37, was recklessly driving near South Kanner Highway and Southeast Indian Street at 5:52 p.m. Monday.

When deputies pulled Bemis over, they said he had vomit on the driver’s side door and had a whipped cream can and hundreds of nitrous oxide cans in his car.

Bemis was sweating and had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, which deputies said they believed was a result of Bemis “huffing.”

Soldier accused of stealing armored vehicle while under the influence

In the hours before he drove off Fort Pickett in Nottoway County Tuesday evening, 29-year-old Joshua Phillip Yabut tweeted out a Wikipedia entry about the M113 armored personal carrier — which is similar to the M577 vehicle he allegedly stole — and a map of the area not far from where he was apprehended by authorities.

He also posted a series of photos and videos inside the armored vehicle before and during his joyride.

Yabut’s Twitter feed is littered with no shortage of bizarre tweets, including ones from Tuesday, which read “where is this damn water buffalo” and “all i wanna do is get an anime wife.”

Virginia National Guard spokesperson Cotton Puryear told WTVRYabut made off with the vehicle while his unit conducted routine training Tuesday afternoon.

State police chased the vehicle for nearly two hours — with speeds topping out at about 40 mph — before they arrested Yabut in downtown Richmond, around 10 p.m. the same evening.

“The vehicle was not equipped with any weapons, but the soldier did have his personal weapon with him but had no ammunition,” Puryear said.

Police charged him with driving under the influence of drugs, felony eluding police and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Yabut, who was deployed in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard between 2008 and 2009, has served for more than 11 years. He was booked in Richmond Jail, and police are continuing to investigate the incident.

DUI test decision could be left to justices

Interference convictions likely to be appealed.

Time behind bars is pending for two people who were arrested on charges of driving under the influence in December.

They aren’t going to jail for driving drunk — but for refusing to comply with a judge’s search warrant for their blood on the mornings of their arrests.

Christian Joel Garza and Nina Lynn Ruberti were arrested separately, but their cases have unfolded in a similar fashion.

They both refused breath tests and blood tests after being arrested on suspicion of DUI in Teton County.

The cases are somewhat unusual and could force the Wyoming Supreme Court to decide what’s applicable to state law.

Jurors recently found both defendants guilty of interference for refusing blood draws after a judge signed warrants.


Christian Garza

Garza was pulled over at Highway 22 and Walton Ranch Road on Dec. 3 for driving 62 mph in a 45 zone, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

“Deputy Bradley Goering noted that Garza’s facial muscles were relaxed and his eyes were glossy,” documents state. “Deputy Goering could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from inside the vehicle.”

Garza admitted to drinking several beers, police said, and submitted to a few field tests but refused breath, blood and urine tests.

In Wyoming, if a DUI defendant refuses a blood test police can apply for a search warrant under the Wyoming Implied Consent Advisement. The law was enacted in 2011.

Goering applied for a warrant for Garza’s blood after booking him into Teton County Jail around 2:30 that morning.

Teton County Circuit Court Judge James Radda approved the warrant, and Garza was taken to St. John’s Medical Center for the blood draw.

“As the laboratory technician was preparing to draw Garza’s blood, Garza stated he would not allow his blood to be drawn,” police stated.

Goering told Garza refusing the search warrant would result in an interference with a peace officer charge.

“Garza stated he understood but still refused to allow the blood draw,” police said.

The state of Wyoming dismissed the DUI charge, but a Teton County jury found Garza guilty of interference after an April 11 trial.

He was sentenced to 75 days in jail.

Garza believes the interference charge and search warrant blood draw are violations of “civil and human rights.”

“The punishment is abuse of power,” Garza told the News&Guide in an interview Tuesday. “It’s an overreach of government power.”

The Teton County Prosecutor’s Office sees it as a way to learn a lesson.

“He had a prior DUI conviction,” Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan said. “People need to understand that refusing to cooperate with the search warrant is a bad idea, and if you get convicted of that you’re going to jail.”

Garza’s attorney, Alex Freeburg, is in the process of filing an appeal, which means there’s a stay on Garza’s jail time.

Nina Ruberti was pulled over Dec. 20 for driving 42 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Gary Fairhurst pulled Ruberti over near the Virginian Saloon just after midnight, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

“Dep. Fairhurt noticed that Ruberti’s speech was very slow and slurred and her eyes were very glassy,” documents state.

Ruberti admitted she had one glass of wine at a Christmas party earlier in the evening and after smelling “peppermint and alcohol” Fairhurst asked her to step out of the car.


Nina Ruberti

“Deputy Fairhurst noticed Ruberti lost her balance as she stepped out of the vehicle,” police said.

Ruberti wouldn’t perform a field sobriety test.

“I’ve been told not to say or do anything,” Ruberti told Fairhurst.

She also refused a breath test, so Fairhurst arrested her for suspected impairment based on his other observations.

When Ruberti refused chemical tests, Fairhurst got a signed warrant, but she refused that and was charged with interference.

Last week a Teton County jury found Ruberti guilty of interference.

She received a 10-day jail sentence.

“An appeal is under consideration now,” her attorney, Ed Bushnell, said. “I think the sentences that we’ve seen for the interference charges are excessive.”

Bushnell said he understands why the court imposes jail time.

“They are trying to use it as a deterrent for that type of behavior,” he said. “But to the layperson it just seems like an excessive punishment. It assumes a sophistication of the law for an everyday citizen.”

Bushnell said Garza and Ruberti’s recent cases have caused confusion.

Appealing the cases would allow Wyoming Supreme Court justices to decide.

“It is uncharted territory, and we do need a decision from the high court,” Bushnell said. “I don’t know why there haven’t been any challenges in the last four years. Now all of a sudden it’s a hot topic.”

Bushnell said the law shouldn’t assume that citizens understand their rights immediately after being arrested.

“This is so ingrained in our culture. You hear about the right to remain silent,” Bushnell said. “And there are certain tests you can refuse. You have the right to refuse the portable breath test and the blood test initially. But to the layperson, all of a sudden a piece of paper is held up and the officer calls it a warrant, what does that mean to a person when an arrest is so surreal to the average person anyway?”

Allan agrees the law needs clarification but disagrees about the punishment.

“Refusing to cooperate with the officer is not dangerous. They don’t get killed doing that,” Allan said. “Driving drunk is when people get killed. It’s about getting people to not drive drunk.”

The most recent challenge was in 2014 when Gregory Matthews appealed a similar charge to the Wyoming Supreme Court, leaving the questions of the appeal largely unanswered.

The only hint was left in a footnote of the opinion.

“Based on the record before us it does not appear that the officer’s request for Mr. Matthews to comply with the warrant and Mr. Matthews’ negative response is sufficient to constitute interference; however this determination will have to await a full development of the record at trial,” justices wrote.

The Teton County Prosecutor’s Office later dismissed Matthews’ interference charge, leaving confusion about whether charging defendants with interference when they refuse a blood draw is constitutional.

Since the case didn’t go to trial, a final decision was never made on the legal issue.

Police said they won’t hold someone down and force a blood draw in a misdemeanor traffic offense unless someone is seriously hurt or killed in a crash.

Cop admits killing motorcyclist while DUI

An Elizabeth cop who caused the death of a motorcyclist while driving drunk in October looks to be out of a job and headed to jail for a year.

The recommended sentence and plea deal Romulo Meneses-Alvarez agreed to Monday in Union County Superior Court likely means he’s escaped what could have been a prison term of at least several years.

Meneses-Alvarez, 30, of Elizabeth, admitted he caused the death of Jairo Lozano, 29, of Elizabeth, on Oct. 31, 2017, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

The off-duty officer was under the influence of alcohol when his Jeep Wrangler turned left in front of Lozano’s motorcycle on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, causing the collision.

Meneses-Alvarez pleaded guilty Monday to strict liability vehicular homicide in the third degree, tampering with physical evidence in the fourth degree, and driving while intoxicated as part of the plea agreement.

When he is sentenced July 13, Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Keith Abrams will recommend Meneses-Alvarez serve 364 days in county jail as a condition of probation, according the Middlesex prosecutor’s office. (Middlesex prosecuted the case due to an undisclosed conflict of interest with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.)

Meneses-Alvarez also agreed to give up his job with Elizabeth Police Department, from which he’s been suspended without pay. The prosecutor’s office also said he will lose his license for one year for the drunk driving conviction. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor said the judge will decide the length of the probation term.

Many details of the Halloween crash and the investigation remain unclear, but police documents and indictments allege that Meneses-Alvarez left the scene after the crash and hindered the investigation by preventing police from checking out his Jeep Wrangler.

A diagram from the police report about the crash. (Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office) 

After the Jeep and the 2005 GSX Suzuki motorcycle collided, Lozano was taken to Trinitas Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

A police narrative in court documents said Meneses-Alvarez gave his information to police at the scene but then left.

Joshua McMahon, an attorney for Lozano’s family, said a witness and body camera footage revealed that another Elizabeth police officer told Meneses-Alvarez to leave. NJ Advance Media was unable to confirm this because a records request for the video footage was denied.

A grand jury returned seven indictments against Meneses-Alvarez in April, making reference to him leaving the scene and not returning. He was indicted for hindering for allegedly lying to an officer when he said he was returning to the crime scene, one indictment said. Another indictment claimed there was evidence he tried to tamper with evidence by altering, destroying, concealing or removing his Jeep during the investigation.

The criminal complaint said that police got a warrant to take a blood sample from Meneses-Alvarez and he was taken to the hospital several hours later. The complaint did not say where officers located him.

All but three of the charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, including a first-degree vehicular homicide within 1,000 feet of a school, which could have meant a double-digit prison sentence if he was convicted.

McMahon said that Meneses-Alvarez admitted in court Monday that he was drinking at Central Park, a bar in Roselle, before the crash.

Central Park was one of two bars where former Linden cop Pedro Abad was drinking in 2015 before he drove the wrong way on a highway leading to a head-on crash that killed two fellow officers. He was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison a year ago.

“The family was heartened to hear the Defendant take responsibility, and appreciates the efforts of the Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutors to facilitate this negotiated resolution,” McMahon said. “That said, given what has happened here as well as the Abad incident, we intend, through the civil arena, to fully explore the role that Central Park bartenders played in this Defendant committing another off-duty, drinking-related homicide.”