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Financial adviser charged after DUI crash severely injures other driver, cops say

A Bluffton financial adviser was charged with driving under the influence after crashing on U.S. 278 and causing severe injury to another driver, police said.

Around 6 p.m. Saturday, Blackwell, driving a 2019 BMW SUV, was heading east on U.S. 278 when he rear-ended a car stopped at a red light on Burnt Church Road, according to SCHP Trooper Tyler Tidwell.

S.C. Highway Patrol charged Todd Blackwell, 47, of Bluffton with one count of felony DUI causing great bodily injury, one count of simple possession of marijuana, one count of open container of alcohol, and one count of transporting alcohol with a broken seal, according to court records.

The car, a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, was run off the road on the right, where it hit an unoccupied parked car.

The driver of the Corvette sustained “great bodily injury,” and the passenger had minor injuries, said Tidwell. Both were wearing seat belts.

Tidwell did not have information on the driver’s condition, nor what hospital the person was sent to. Blackwell was not injured.

He was booked into the Beaufort County Detention Center shortly after midnight, jail records show. He was still being held there Monday morning, and a bond has not been set.

Blackwell is a partner in a wealth management company, Blackwell Boyd, according to the company’s website. He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Club of Bluffton.

DUI causing great bodily injury is a felony. Conviction carries a penalty of at least 30 days in jail but up to 15 years in prison, S.C. law states.

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Cop jailed on suspicion of drunken driving left casino before arrest

A Wichita police officer has been moved to desk duty after he was spotted driving away from the Kansas Star Casino while drunk, according to law enforcement reports.

The Wichita Police Department said Monday that Officer Cory Michael Masterson, a 12-year agency veteran, had been arrested and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence following his arrest early Monday by the Kansas Highway Patrol. He was also booked for improper driving on a laned roadway, jail records show.

Lehnherr said Masterson “showed signs of intoxication and impairment” when he interacted with the trooper.

He was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail shortly after.

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Lehnherr said once KHP’s report on the incident is complete, it will be presented to the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s office will decide whether to file criminal charges.

Wichita police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said Monday by email that Masterson was moved to an administrative assignment following his arrest. He previously had been assigned to the agency’s field services division and was apart of the Patrol East Bureau as recently as this summer, according to police records previously provided to The Eagle. He is a commissioned officer.

Davison did not answer a question asking what Masterson’s new job entails.

Masterson was off duty when he was arrested, police said.

“The case is being investigated by KHP, and an internal review will take place by the WPD,” Davidson’s email said. The department released no other information Monday.

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Driving under the influence is a misdemeanor crime.

Masterson’s arrest comes as law enforcement agencies in the area put extra cops on the streets leading up to and after the Thanksgiving holiday to catch drunken and drug-impaired drivers. The extra enforcement campaign, “Thanksgiving Safe Arrival,” runs through Nov. 29.

More than 200 drivers suspected of DUI are arrested in Kansas each week, police said in announcing their participation in the campaign last week.

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Nightlife may have ebbed, drunk driving hasn’t

DUI Enforcement
Tempe Police and virtually all other municipal departments, as well as the state Department of Public Safety, will have additional patrols on the street during the holiday season to get drunk drivers off the road.Special to AFN

Police tactics are changing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the East Valley DUI Task Force will return during the holiday season with the same goal of promoting public safety by busting as many impaired drivers as possible.

Throughout Arizona, driving under the influence arrests are down 10-15 percent this year, but East Valley agencies report the opposite trend, with Gilbert police arrests increasing 31 percent from a year ago and Chandler police also reporting an increase.

Mesa and Scottsdale police report little change from a year ago, with drivers still drinking or using drugs before getting behind the wheel – apparently more from imbibing at home or private social gatherings.

“Overall, our numbers are down slightly from last year. However, our crashes involving impaired drivers have remained at a similar level,’’ said Sgt. Ben Hoster, a Scottsdale police spokesman. “This is still significant because of how nightlife has been impacted. 

“Across the Valley, we are seeing a noticeable amount of people driving impaired that are not coming from the establishments impacted by the pandemic.’’

Mesa police Officer George Chwe, a state instructor in DUI investigations, said the problem can be traced to substance abuse and addiction.

“A lot of old habits are coming back,’’ Chwe said, with people who have suffered from substance abuse in the past likely backsliding under the pressure of losing their jobs and sustaining other setbacks during the pandemic.

“I think impaired driving and substance abuse will be a huge factor,’’ he said, as the nation mobilizes to defeat the pandemic and return to a sense of normalcy.

“We’re just changing our tactics, but it’s business as usual,’’ Chwe said. “We’re doing it in a COVID-prevention manner.’’

Chwe said the entire point is to prevent needless fatalities and deter high-risk behavior that can have a deadly consequence for innocent people on the road.

“People do make mistakes. We would rather catch them before they make a tremendous mistake, killing someone,’’ he said.

Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said police are changing tactics to avoid either contracting COVID-19 from each other or from suspects during traffic stops or at mobile testing and booking stations.

“We have to be very careful. No briefings with 50 people in a room,’’ Gutier said. 

He said the safety protocols will help protect officers and suspects alike by promoting social distancing, with maybe one suspect being booked at a time in a command van, while the others wait outside.

Other holiday enforcement campaigns this year, during the July 3 holiday and Labor Day, have followed similar practices. 

Gutier anticipates that arrests statewide from the holiday enforcement campaigns will probably drop 10-15 percent from this time last year. 

He canceled his yearly Thanksgiving rally against DUI at the State Capitol, where police from around the state would gather in a show of force to publicize their campaign, which is largely funded by federal highway safety grants.

Instead, police agencies will either work on their own, or form smaller, regional partnerships to carry out the campaign between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, he said.

Barring an extreme flare-up of COVID-19, the East Valley task force has been divided into north and south divisions.

 Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler will form the south division, while Tempe, Scottsdale, the state Department of Public Safety, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona State University police and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribal police form the northern contingent.

Hoster said the two divisions also cut down on travel time, allowing officers to focus more on DUI enforcement.

“Each of the respective cities have grown up enough that they need their traffic units working in their own city at night,’’ he wrote. “Eliminating the drive time, for example, between Scottsdale and Gilbert allows more time for officers to focus on enforcement.’’

Brenda Carrasco, spokeswoman for the Gilbert police, said the plan is to use a somewhat scaled-down approach featuring six nights of enforcement during the holiday period.

The task force would rotate their enforcement efforts among the three cities, hitting Gilbert one night and Chandler or Mesa the next, she said.

“We have seen a 31 percent increase in DUI arrests. We have had our traffic units go out three nights a week,’’ Carrasco said, adding that all Gilbert patrol officers are vigilant about spotting possibly impaired drivers.

“When you can take people off the road who are endangering others, you want to do that,’’ she said, adding, “we don’t have a specific answer as to why’’ arrests have increased.

Gilbert’s DUI arrests have increased to 1,092 between January and October 2020, from 832 during the same period in 2019, Carrasco said.

Detective Zachary Waters, a Chandler police spokesman, said traffic officers have noted an uptick as well and his department is planning saturation patrols throughout the holidays.

“We just want to keep impaired drivers off the roadways,’’ Waters said. “We think people still continue to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. We believe the task force is still important.’’

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‘We hit a swimmer:’ witness recalls boat crash that killed man on lake

Kalamazoo County Sheriff on Gull Lake
MLive File Photo. A Kalamazoo County sheriff boat on Gull Lake.Kalamazoo Gazette

KALAMAZOO, MI — A man accused of causing a crash while intoxicated that killed a swimmer on Gull Lake this summer will face trial, a Kalamazoo County judge ruled Friday.

Tyler Boyd is charged with operating a watercraft while intoxicated causing death in connection to the crash the caused the death of an 18-year-old swimmer on Gull Lake on July 5, according to court documents. Jack William Mitchell, 18, of Richland Township, was killed in the crash.

After a preliminary examination in the case Friday, Nov. 20, Kalamazoo County District Judge Anne Blatchford said there was sufficient evidence presented, and ruled the case be bound over to Circuit Court for trial.

Emily Merz testified she has known Boyd for 15 years, and they are very close friends. She went boating with Boyd on July 5, and a total of five people were on board when the crash happened, she testified.

“We hit a swimmer,” Merz said, when asked about the boat ride that day.

Just before the crash, she said she noticed in the water a swimmer’s head, wearing a pink swim cap, directly in front of the boat. She immediately warned Boyd, Merz testified, and he reacted very quickly.

Merz saw the swimmer’s head go under the boat, she said.

Boyd was operating the boat, and he immediately shut it down after the swimmer was hit, Merz said. Boyd jumped in the water and started bringing the man to the boat, yelling for others to call 911. The lake was busy that day, she said. It was Fourth of July weekend.

Boyd grew up on Gull Lake, Merz said.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Deputy Erik Stark testified he was called to the crash. There were alcoholic beverages inside coolers in the boat, as well as some empty cans of alcoholic beverages, he said.

Michigan State Police Trooper Conner Grosteffon said she performed field sobriety tests on Boyd.

Based on observations and field sobriety tests, she said, she believed Boyd was under the influence of alcohol. Boyd told police he drank two White Claws, and there was an odor of intoxicants, Grosteffon said.

Police obtained a search warrant for a blood test, and Boyd also consented to it, Grosteffon said. A blood draw showed he was over the legal limit, according to testimony Friday.

The prosecutor’s office submitted evidence that alcohol was found in his blood at 0.222 grams per 100 ml of blood, or nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 required to legally operate a motorboat.

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