ASHLAND, Ohio — At the same time law enforcement officers were conducting a mock DUI crash presentation for students at the West Holmes Career Center, a man driving recklessly turned the event from a simulated performance to a live-action crash course showing exactly why you shouldn't drink and drive.
On Friday, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ashland County Sheriff's Office were working in conjunction to conduct the mock crash for students. While staff members were monitoring the area, they noticed a vehicle enter the parking lot at a high rate of speed. The staff originally thought it was part of the demonstration but soon realized it was possibly an impaired driver—not just an actor.
"This Buick Enclave is traveling at a high rate of speed in our driveway and I’m sitting there watching and my heart is sinking to my gut because I truly thought the kids were going to get hit," principal Rick Brindley said. "He has to be coming 40 or 45 mph down that driveway."
Brindley described to News 5 how criminal justice students were guiding traffic while the mock crash simulation was underway, and had to move quickly to avoid the driver.
"About six kids moved out of the way," Brindley added. "He actually came past where the kids were standing."
Deputies on scene for the demonstration were notified and responded to the vehicle in question. Once they come in contact with the driver, police say they detected the smell of alcohol on him and noticed his eyes were glassy and bloodshot. The man was also speaking incoherently, they say, slurring his words and "acting in an erratic manner."
According to police, the man-made statements and gestures towards the students and told officers he was there to take the cat he had in his vehicle to the vet. The nearest veterinary clinic is a half-mile down the road from the career center.
Deputies conducted a search of his vehicle and found an open alcohol container, a jar of Old Smoky Tennessee Moonshine. He failed his sobriety test.
"You could tell he was under the influence by the speech and the eyes," Captain David Blake with the Ashland County Sheriff's Office.
For Blake, this was a first in his 30 years on the job.
"You're doing a mock DUI crash for the students and you actually have a DUI driver pull in is very unusual," Blake said. "That would never happen."
No one was hurt in the crash. Looking back, Principal Brindley told News 5 he can look back at Friday as the ultimate lesson for students.
"It does put a fear in them and they realize, 'drunk driving is not the thing to do or impaired driving or even texting while driving because that situation could have been very damaging," he said. "We could have had five kids hurt."
The man, whom we've chosen not to identify, was arrested and taken to the Ashland County Jail. He's been charged with reckless operation, aggravated menacing, resisting arrest, open container, inducing panic, and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
The cat the driver repeatedly referenced in Ashland County Sheriff's body camera video was located after the arrest.
The driver appeared in municipal court on Tuesday and remains locked up in the Ashland County jail on a $10,000 bond.