Local News

Friday, Nov 02 2012 11:44 AM

Witness to fatal crash tried to stop alleged drunken driver

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A witness to Monday's early morning crash that claimed the life of one teen and left four others injured frantically tried to chase the suspected drunken driver down and stop him from continuing to drive on the wrong side of the road, according to redacted police reports that became available Friday.

The witness told police he saw the car driven by Martin William Juarez turn off Brimhall Road and drive south in the northbound lanes of Coffee Road, the reports say. The witness turned into the southbound lanes and flashed his high beams as he tried to keep pace with Juarez.

The reports say the witness accelerated to 65 mph but was unable to keep up with Juarez. The witness said Juarez's car nearly collided with two other vehicles before crashing into the car driven by 18-year-old Breana Webb near Stockdale Highway.

Juarez, 33, got out of the passenger-side door of his car because the driver's-side door was disabled, the reports say. A Bakersfield police sergeant who arrived shortly after repeatedly told Juarez to stop as he continued walking westbound from the crash site.

Juarez continued walking and the sergeant was forced to take him to the ground to detain him, the reports say. Another officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from Juarez, and that he had bloodshot, watery eyes and slurred speech.

Police took Juarez to Kern Medical Center, where his blood was drawn, according to the reports. He was then booked into jail.

Webb died at the scene and her passengers suffered injuries ranging from a lacerated kidney to multiple facial fractures, according to court documents.

Juarez is charged with felonies including second-degree murder and is being held on $1,225,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday.

Juarez has a prior DUI conviction from 2005, which has made the new charges more serious.

Court files also became available Friday regarding a 2001 case in which Juarez was arrested on suspicion of possession of illegal weapons. Deputies reported they were traveling to Juarez's then-home in Wofford Heights to serve a warrant to him in connection with assault with a deadly weapon.

Deputies discovered Juarez had just left in a pickup and was on his way to work, the reports say. They radioed information about Juarez to other deputies and the California Highway Patrol, and two CHP officers stopped Juarez on Highway 178, about a mile and a half east of Delonghia Bridge.

Deputies arrived and searched Juarez's vehicle, finding a switchblade and a set of nunchaku, according to the reports. Juarez was arrested and booked into the downtown jail.

Juarez told deputies he is not a martial arts instructor or student, and said he kept the nunchaku in his truck "in case I get jumped driving to and from Bakersfield," the reports say. He admitted knowing that owning nunchaku is against the law, but said he didn't realize it was a felony.

Juarez also admitted the switchblade was his and that he'd owned it for about six months. He pleaded no contest in early 2002 to owning a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

The assault charge was dismissed.

Other convictions against Juarez mostly include ones related to his driving, plus a 1997 spousal abuse conviction.

His next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8.

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