DWI arrests down during Thanksgiving weekend

Steve Garrison
Officer William Temples with the Farmington Police Department takes a woman into custody in December 2014 at a sobriety checkpoint on East Main Street in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — Farmington police made nearly half as many drunken driving arrests over this Thanksgiving weekend compared to the 2014 holiday weekend.

Farmington police officers arrested nine people on suspicion of drunken driving this year during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which ran from Nov. 25 to Nov. 29, according to booking data from the San Juan County Adult Detention Center. Sixteen people were arrested last year on suspicion of the same offense.

The Bloomfield and Aztec police departments made a combined total of three DWI arrests during the holiday weekend, according to the jail's booking data. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office arrested four people on suspicion of drunken driving, and New Mexico State Police arrested two people, the data indicates.

Local law enforcement officials previously said there could be fewer officers on the streets enforcing the state's DWI laws during the Thanksgiving weekend due to a delay in state grant funding.

Police officials said the New Mexico Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Bureau failed to disburse an ENDWI grant before the holiday weekend, which could have resulted in less aggressive DWI enforcement at a time when there is an increased risk of DWI-related fatalities.

The department of transportation approved the grant for the Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington police agencies on Nov. 25 after The Daily Times contacted the state agency about it. At that point, law enforcement officials said it would be difficult to find officers to work overtime on such short notice.

Farmington police Lt. Taft Tracy said Tuesday that his department was able to find three additional officers to each work one shift during the Thanksgiving weekend this year. He said during a typical holiday weekend, he would like to have two additional officers patrolling each night.

Tracy said he would need to review the department's crime statistics to say definitively whether the funding delay affected DWI enforcement in Farmington.

Aztec police Capt. Troy Morris said his department could not find any additional officers to work the holiday weekend. Bloomfield police Chief Randy Foster said Tuesday that no extra officer was available from his department to work during the weekend.

Asked last week what caused the state Department of Transportation to delay approving the ENDWI grant, spokesman Matt Kennicott said in a statement that The Daily Times was working on a "false premise."

"We facilitate federal grants like these, and others, in a timely manner," Kennicott said. "We notified the three cities that the funds were available within 24 hours of receiving their executed contract and the county had (Community DWI) funds available for use," Kennicott said.

Farmington's ENDWI grant contract was approved by the city council on Nov. 10, more than two weeks before the grant was approved by the state, according to the city clerk's office. The Bloomfield City Council approved the grant contract at its Nov. 9 meeting, and Morris said Aztec's contract was signed by the city attorney on Nov. 3.

Kennicott said Tuesday it was possible the U.S. Postal Service failed to quickly deliver the contracts to the department's Santa Fe office.

"Once we receive the contract, we turn them around right away," Kennicott said.

Several of the individuals arrested by local agencies on suspicion of drunken driving during this Thanksgiving holiday weekend were repeat offenders, according to an analysis of the detention center's data by The Daily Times.

Michael Tsosie, 33, was arrested Nov. 29 on suspicion of his sixth drunken driving offense after he allegedly crashed into a utility pole at the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and West Main Street, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Tsosie was allegedly attempting to flee from a Farmington police officer at the time of the crash, the affidavit states. His pregnant girlfriend was in the vehicle and was transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries, according to the affidavit.

Tsosie told detectives another man, named "Psycho," was the driver and fled the scene after crashing the vehicle. Tsosie smelled like alcohol and a half-empty beer was in the vehicle's middle console, the affidavit states.

Tsosie is expected to appear at a preliminary examination hearing Wednesday. He has not yet retained legal representation, according to court records.

Eastina Begay, 30, was arrested Nov. 29 on allegations she drunkenly crashed her vehicle into a neighbor's truck at a residence on Smith Lane in Farmington, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The neighbor and his 16-year-old daughter confronted Begay about the damage, and Begay allegedly attacked the girl, the affidavit states.

Begay was charged Dec. 1 in Farmington Magistrate Court with her second drunken driving offense and two counts of child abuse. She is also expected to appear at a preliminary examination hearing Wednesday and has not yet retained legal representation, court records state.

A deputy with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office arrested Charolette Yazzie on Nov. 27 on suspicion of drunken driving, a fourth offense, according to booking records. Darin Richard Scott was also arrested Nov. 27 by the Farmington Police Department on suspicion of drunken driving, a second offense, the records state.

Local law enforcement agencies will have increased patrols throughout the month of December. The Farmington Police Department is urging residents who see aggressive or distracted driving to report it to police by calling 911.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.