Driver sentenced to 7 years for striking and killing 11-year-old boy

Garrett Bergquist arraignment
Garrett Bergquist, 26, was arraigned at the Multnomah County Justice Center on Jan. 7, 2020. He was charged with first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, driving under the influence of intoxicants and reckless driving in the death of Luis Medina, 11, in Gresham. Dave Killen / staffThe Oregonian

A 27-year-old Gresham man was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for striking and killing an 11-year-old boy while driving under the influence in January 2020.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced the sentence for Garrett Bergquist and said Bergquist also would serve three additional years on parole and permanently lose his right to drive.

Bergquist struck and killed Luis Medina-Estrada while the boy was walking to Gresham’s Dexter McCarty Middle School on Jan. 6 last year. The sixth-grader was crossing Southeast Hogan Road in a crosswalk with the light in his favor, when Bergquist ran a red light and hit him.

Witnesses said Bergquist was speeding and driving between 40 and 70 mph when he struck the 11-year-old, according to the District Attorney’s Office. After the crash, Bergquist left his vehicle, phone in hand, and walked 30 feet to the boy’s body. He did that three times, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Court documents from Bergquist’s arraignment said that a drug test showed he was taking central nervous system depressants and narcotic pain relievers, which impaired him to the point he couldn’t safely operate a car. Bergquist said he was taking pain pills for an old leg injury, but that he was not under a doctor’s care, according to the court documents.

Earlier this month, Bergquist pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and driving under the influence of intoxicants.

fundraiser set up shortly after Medina-Estrada’s death called him a “quiet sweet boy” and said he loved playing with his sister and “anything that had to do with playing in the water.”

According to the District Attorney’s Office, his mother told the court in a victim impact statement that every day one of her other children “asks me why is their brother not here.”https://fdab2a0fb0b4e8879fd601098864588d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“I as a mother have to answer. It is a very difficult thing,” she said. “The punishment is never enough when the child is taken away.” https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2021/08/driver-sentenced-to-7-years-for-striking-and-killing-11-year-old-gresham-boy.html

Driver with four kids ends up in ditch

An East Rochester man was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated under Leandra’s Law after a pickup truck he was allegedly driving was found stuck in a ditch with four children inside.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report about 9:30 p.m. Saturday of a truck in a ditch near an Econolodge on Alleghany Road in the Town of Pembroke.

Deputies alleged that the truck was being operated by Nathaniel W. Stringer, 46, of West Linden Avenue. Stringer was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated, under Leandra’s Law, because the vehicle was occupied by four children under the age of 15.

Stringer was also charged with DWI, DWI refusal, moving from a lane unsafely and unlicensed operation. He was released on appearance tickets and is due to appear in town court in October. https://buffalonews.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/driver-with-four-kids-ends-up-in-ditch-and-in-trouble-under-leandras-law/article_f21bda26-08d7-11ec-9e82-c3f78bdffa39.html

Blotters: Woman arrested under Leandra’s Law

A woman was arrested on four counts of Leandra’s Law, driving while intoxicated and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child following a Sunday morning traffic stop on Northville Turnpike near Maple Avenue, according to Riverhead Town police. 

The driver, Ingrid Martinez, 41, address unavailable, was pulled over for failing to signal a left turn onto Northville Turnpike, police said. 

An officer determined that Ms. Martinez was intoxicated. Her two children, aged 9 and 13, were in the backseat along with two 6-year-olds whose mother was a front-seat passenger, according to police.

Leandra’s Law makes it an automatic felony in New York State to drive drunk with a person age 15 or under inside the car. 

• A number of thefts were reported at Tanger Outlets last Thursday afternoon, according to police. 

A woman wearing blue jeans and a black shirt stole $434 worth of merchandise from the Tommy Hilfiger store and fled the area. Someone matching the same description stole $666 in merchandise from the Forever 21 store and ran off. 

Less than a half-hour later, two women wearing black shirts and tan pants stole $921 worth of merchandise from the Calvin Klein store.

• A gold bracelet valued at $1,800 and $400 in cash were reported stolen from Fairfield Pines Apartments in Riverhead Friday night.

• Southampton police arrested Pastor Morocho, 50, of Flanders in his hometown Sunday for driving while intoxicated. 

Police stopped Mr. Morocho for failing to maintain his lane of travel on Bell Avenue. According to an incident report, he had slurred speech, bloodshot and glassy eyes, his breath smelled of alcohol and he was unsteady on his feet. 

Mr. Morocho performed poorly on field sobriety tests and was transported to police headquarters, where he was processed and held for morning arraignment. He’s been charged with his first DWI, moving from a lane unsafely and not properly illuminating his rear license plate. 

• Wilmer Melendrez, 19, of Riverhead was arrested for DWI in Water Mill Saturday after striking a guard rail. 

Responding officers observed the vehicle failing to maintain its lane and making unsafe lane changes. According to an incident report, Mr. Melendrez’s breath smelled of alcohol, and he had glassy eyes and was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on field sobriety tests and was transported to headquarters for processing, where he was held for morning arraignment. 

Mr. Melendrez has been charged with his first DWI, following too close, moving from lane unsafely, unsafe turns, and driving without a license. 

• Police arrested Walter Nunez, 26, of Hampton Bays in Riverside last Wednesday for driving with a suspended license. 

Police initially stopped Mr. Nunez on Flanders Road for driving with an inadequate headlight, but a DMV check showed his license had been suspended in September 2019 for failing to pay a fee and in June 2019 for DWI. The check also showed that Mr. Nunez did not have any New York State-issued licenses. 

He was charged with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and released on uniform traffic tickets. 

• Eddy Beltetonreyes, 46, of East Quogue was arrested in Flanders last Wednesday for driving with a suspended license. 

Police stopped Mr. Beltetonreyes for speeding. They found his vehicle had several equipment violations, including side windows tinted too heavily, and a DMV check showed that his driving  privileges had been revoked in 2008. 

Mr. Beltetonreyes was released on uniform traffic tickets and charged with an equipment violation, operating a motor vehicle without insurance or a license, speeding and third degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. 

• A Riverside business owner told police Friday that someone had tried to break into a vehicle and steal three dollars in change. When confronted, the suspect handed back the change and apologized before fleeing on foot. 

• Police responded to a caller Sunday who claimed they saw someone digging a 10-foot white wooden cross out of the ground at Flanders United Methodist Church. 

The reporting officer found the contact pushing the cross on Flanders Road. They identified the person using their driver’s license and drove them home. The cross was returned to the church. 

• A caller from Flanders complained to police Sunday that someone stole a ceramic raccoon ornament from outside her apartment. 

A reporting officer located the offender, who returned the raccoon. The caller did not wish to press charges immediately, but said she may do so at a later date. https://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com/2021/08/106709/blotters-woman-arrested-under-leandras-law/

Okinawa-based sailor accused of drunken driving after early morning hit-and-run

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — An Okinawa-based U.S. Navy sailor was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of drunken driving after Japanese police responded to reports of a hit-and-run crash.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Emanuel Ramirez Pecina, 22, assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Hansen, was arrested at 6:55 a.m. Saturday in Naha city after he was pulled over by police and found to be under the influence of alcohol, a Naha police spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday.

Police searching for a suspect in an earlier hit-and-run noticed Pecina’s vehicle was damaged, the spokesman said.

“We are investigating his involvement with the hit-and-run,” the spokesman said. “His car is pretty damaged.”

The hit-and-run happened at 4:10 a.m. when a vehicle hit a taxi and fled the scene, the spokesman said. No injuries were reported from the incident.

After he was pulled over, Pecina admitted drinking the night before but denied that he was still intoxicated, the spokesman said. He told police he had slept it off and was now sober.ADVERTISINGhttps://4a8a77420edff3a241ba108551e27292.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

A breath test measured his blood alcohol content at 0.12%, four times Japan’s legal limit of 0.03%. For comparison, all 50 U.S. states have set 0.08 as the legal limit for driving under the influence or driving while impaired.

Pecina is being held by Japanese police, the spokesman said. His case has been forwarded to prosecutors who will decide whether to officially press charges.

Pecina may face further charges, the police spokesman said. It’s customary in Japan for some government officials to speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

The incident is “currently under investigation,” III MEF spokesman Capt. Gabriel Adibe told Stars and Stripes via email Tuesday. The command is “fully cooperating with local authorities.”A U.S. Navy sailor assigned to Camp Hansen was arrested Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, on suspicion of drunken driving after Japanese police responded to reports of a hit-and-run crash.U.S. Navy sailor assigned to Camp Hansen was arrested Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, on suspicion of drunken driving after Japanese police responded to reports of a hit-and-run crash. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes) https://www.stripes.com/branches/navy/2021-08-24/okinawa-us-navy-hit-and-run-dui-arrest-2652518.html

Prison time ordered in pedestrian death

Prison time ordered in Siren pedestrian dea
Robert Olson

The man behind the wheel of an SUV that struck and killed Jerald Mechelke of Siren as he crossed the street to save a dog in 2019 has been ordered to serve at least five years in state prison, with another four years of extended supervision upon release.

Robert Olson, 56, Siren, was sentenced in Burnett County Circuit Court on Monday, Aug. 15 by Judge Melissia Mogen, who cited his lifetime of substance abuse and actions. 

Olson was accused of being under the influence of narcotics when he struck and killed the 79-year-old man, who was apparently crossing the street to help a small dog in the traffic. 

Olson was initially facing a felony charge of homicide by use of a vehicle – while under the influence of drugs, as well as multiple other criminal charges, including felony drug possession and four felony bail jumping charges on top of a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge, totaling seven criminal charges. He was also facing multiple bail jumping charges for failing to abide by the terms of his bond in the year-and-a-half since the fatal incident.

However, he avoided a jury trial in May with a plea deal that reduced the primary charge from causing a homicide to causing injury that resulted in death, as well as four other felony charges that included drug possession and bail jumping.  

The sentencing hearing

Olson appeared with his attorney, Ryan Reid, before the judge, where Burnett County assistant district attorney Kevin Schmidt outlined the state’s case for prison time, asking Judge Mogen to follow the state recommended 5-to-7 years of initial incarceration, followed by another 3-to-4 years of extended supervision, upon release.

Schmidt outlined the case, and noted that Olson told police he had no phone, no radio or other outside issues to distract him when Mr. Mechelke ran into the road to chase the animal. 

Schmidt said that while Olson was not technically distracted, and had not done drugs in several hours that day, he was such a steady addict that he might have been able to avoid the fatal accident if he was truly sober. 

“It seems that Mr. Olson has done so many drugs, he doesn’t know what sober is anymore,” Schmidt said, also citing his repeated bail and bond violations since the 2019 fatal crash. “And he keeps using (drugs) even after taking someone’s life.”

Several people spoke both for and against Olson at the hearing, including the victims’ wife, Mary, who sobbed as she recalled how her husband was taken from her too soon, depriving her, his family and his grandchildren of knowing him. 

“You have taken my husband, a father, grandfather, away from me and others,” she said. “You’ve had a lot of chances, but you kept using drugs.”

Another woman noted how she was the last person to see Mr. Mechelke right before he died, and how she was the last person to see him before he was cremated, while also chastising Olson for his repeated drug use and incidents.

Even Olson’s brother spoke of his siblings’ addiction issues, and said he was sad and felt sorry for what his brother had done.

“Bobby’s a drug addict, we know that. I can’t argue with anything that these good people have said,” his brother said. “I’m truly sorry for them and for what he’s (Olson) done.” 

Olson’s defense attorney, Ryan Reid, pointed out that his client was not distracted, using a phone or other actions when the tragedy occurred, while also pushing for probation and continued substance abuse treatment, over jail time. 

During his rite of elocution, Olson also made his own plea to Judge Mogen for a reduced sentence, stating that he was “Truly sorry, and never meant for this to happen.” He also insisted that he had no intent to hurt or kill anyone that day.

“I’m not a criminal, I’m a man with a disease,” Olson said. “And I just want to apologize and say I’m sorry.”

But Judge Mogen fired back at Olson, noting not only the half dozen violations of his bond conditions since the fatal crash but his literal lifetime of criminal violations, operating under the influence, drug charges and more, along the way.

“No, let me correct you, Mr. Olson: You are a criminal, and you are a felon, but you also have a disease,” Judge Mogen said with a sigh, as she then went over Olson’s journey of substance abuse that began when he was just 10-years-old. Mogen noted that Olson had started drinking and using drugs as a child, and was even behind the death of a friend at age 17 in a car accident, although the details of that incident were unclear.

“At age 17, you were already an addict, and you already … killed somebody!” Mogen said with a deep breath. “And even that was not enough to put you on the right path.”

Olson had made a plea deal in May to avoid a trial on the multiple felony and misdemeanor charges he was facing. That deal meant he pleaded guilty to a total of five felony charges, including a reduced felony charge for Mr. Mechelke’s death. 

“You could get up to 34 years in prison, that’s the rest of your life!” Mogen said that him not going to prison and getting drug treatment would put the public at continued risk. 

“The impact on the victims here is grave,” Mogen added, pointing out that even after a lifetime of substance abuse, Olson decided that was not enough and he decided to “go to the next level” a couple years ago.

“You had ample time to get your life on track, but no, at age 54 – just two years ago – you said ‘let’s bring it up a notch and smoke some meth!’” Mogen said angrily. “That’s the devils’ drug, it will take everything away from you. Everything!” 

Judge Mogen also cited no less than ten instances where Olson had shown non-compliance on his previous bonds and court ordered conditions, in just a year.

In the end, Mogen followed the state Corrections recommendation in the pre-sentence investigation, and sentenced him to 5 years of initial incarceration and 4 years of extended supervision on the primary count of felony injury caused by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, with all subsequent, lesser felonies also earning him between 1.5 and 3 years of incarceration, but all served concurrently.

She also imposed a $515 court cost on each of the five charges, as well as a fine of $4,410 for his primary felony.

However, Mogen seemed shocked that there was no request for restitution, especially in light of Mr. Mechelke’s death.

“Really? No request for restitution? For the death of a human being?” Judge Mogen said with a sigh. 

Olson has 20 days to appeal the sentencing.    

Background 

According to the criminal complaint, Robert D. Olson was accused of being under the influence on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019 in Siren while driving his Jeep SUV that struck and killed Jerald Mechelke, 79, of Siren. The criminal complaint was filed in May 2020, based on a joint investigation into the incident by several law agencies. 

In the narrative, witnesses stated that Mr. Mechelke had apparently run into the street to grab or save a small dog that had run across the highway near the Dollar General store on State Highway 35.

It appears that the dog was not injured, but Mechelke went after the animal and was hit by Olson’ Jeep as he walked out into the roadway.

Olson pulled over immediately after the collision and did cooperate with police, stating that he had just left a nearby gas station and was headed north and did not see Mechelke as he walked into the roadway, telling police that the man had struck the hood of the truck and then rolled into the windshield. Olson told police he had a window down at the time, but did not hear anything, either. Several people on the scene attempted CPR on Mechelke but he was declared dead a short time later.

In a subsequent police interview, Olson told police he had not been drinking or taken any prescription medications, and he did pass a field sobriety test on the scene, including a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, typically associated with alcohol intoxication.

However, in a subsequent search of Olson’s Jeep, police did find evidence of narcotics with paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana in a grinding apparatus, with police also noting an odor of burnt marijuana in the truck. Olson agreed to a blood draw at the Burnett Medical Center, which led to an analysis at a state crime lab. Results of the lab test appeared to indicate the presence of THC, methamphetamine and amphetamines, as well as the pain killer Naproxen, which is not illegal but can require a prescription, in certain circumstances. 

Charges were filed against Olson in May 2020, noting not only the results of his blood test, but also that he had registered positive drug results in his blood four time since the Mechelke incident. 

According to the criminal complaint, Olson tested positive for THC/marijuana and methamphetamine/amphetamines on Oct. 4, 2019; Nov. 7, 2019; Dec. 18, 2019, and on Feb. 4, 2020. All four tests led to subsequent felony bail jumping charges and were added to his vehicular homicide and drug possession charges, totaling six felonies and one misdemeanor.  

Olson is a convicted felon, and has several OWI convictions on his record, most recently in 2012, where he pleaded guilty to OWI (5th or 6th) with several drug charges dismissed in a plea bargain.

Olson initially pleaded ‘not guilty’ to all counts, although since the homicide charge was filed, he failed several random drug tests, leading to an additional six felony bail jumping charges, which racked along with his primary case. 

Services for Mr. Mechelke were held in September 2019. https://www.burnettcountysentinel.com/news/prison-time-ordered-in-siren-pedestrian-death/article_07d36dee-004e-11ec-a333-fb06ac101e9e.html