By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – People continue to irresponsibly drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the local police officers stay busy during the weekends taking those drivers off the streets and out of harm’s way.
The Safford officers’ first collar of the weekend came early Saturday morning when an officer noticed a dark colored sedan pull onto 8th Street in front of another vehicle and eventually travel in the middle of 5th Avenue before turning to the curb without signaling.
The officer initiated a traffic stop at about 12:27 a.m. and made contact with the driver, Austin Quinn Sudekum, 21, of Safford. Sudekum reportedly had blood shot, watery eyes and smelled like alcohol.
After failing a field sobriety test, Sudekum was given a portable breath test (PBT) that registered his breath-alcohol concentration at .161 percent, enough for an extreme DUI if it was his blood-alcohol concentration. He was then arrested for DUI and transported to the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center (MGRMC) for a blood draw.
Sudekum was then released and his case was forwarded to the Safford City Attorney for charges pending test results of his blood.
The next arrest came after officers caught up to an allegedly intoxicated man after he had recently left a local bar.
County Dispatch alerted officers to a welfare check call at about 11:28 p.m. on Saturday regarding an intoxicated man attempting to leave the Bull Pen at 912 W. Thatcher Blvd. in a white Chevy truck towing a trailer.
As an officer approached the scene, a white Chevy truck driven by Leonard Joseph Alvarado, 54, of Thatcher, left the parking lot westbound on U.S. Highway 70. The officer initiated his overhead lights, but Alvarado refused to yield and continued westbound while weaving around the street, according to a police report.
The officer then turned on his siren, and Alvarado eventually pulled into the Giant gas station at 1780 W. Thatcher Blvd. Upon contact, the officer noted Alvarado had bloodshot, watery eyes, smelled of alcohol and was swaying while sitting in his truck. The officer asked Alvarado why he didn’t initially stop and Alvarado allegedly answered in slurred speech that he thought the officer would go around him and that he was just trying to make it home.
After failing a field sobriety test, Alvarado was given a PBT that registered a breath-alcohol concentration of .225 percent, way past the extreme DUI threshold if it was his blood-alcohol concentration.
The officer then noticed that Alvarado was required to have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle, which people who have been convicted of a DUI must install by court order to prevent them from driving drunk. The truck did not have such a device, and Alvarado was placed under arrest for aggravated DUI. His wife later retrieved the truck and trailer.
Alvarado was transported to the MGRMC for a blood draw and was then released to a family member. The officer’s report was forwarded to the County Attorney’s Office for charging pending blood test results.
The last DUI collar of the weekend came early Sunday morning after an officer spotted a vehicle swerving between lanes.
An officer was northbound on 20th Avenue at about 12:21 a.m. behind a 4-door sedan when he noticed the car cross over the yellow lane divider line several times, according to his report.
After initiating a traffic stop, the officer noted the driver, identified as Antonio Valenzuela, had several signs of alcohol impairment, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, slow, lethargic movements, needed support for balance and that he smelled like alcohol and had trouble finding his license. Additionally, Valenzuela allegedly admitted to drinking alcohol.
After failing a field sobriety test, Valenzuela was given a PBT that registered a breath-alcohol concentration of .210, which is past the threshold for an extreme DUI if it was his blood-alcohol concentration. His passenger informed the officer that she had called someone to pick her up and take the car. Another officer waited with the passenger until her ride arrived.
Valenzuela was arrested and transported to the MGRMC for a blood draw, where afterward he was released. The officer’s report was forwarded to the Safford City Attorney for charging pending blood test results.