Wrong-way driver’s at­tor­neys blame crash on cop

N.M. woman re­mains jailed in Ari­zona after in­ci­dent on I-40

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - By Feli­cia Fon­seca

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — At­tor­neys for a wrong-way driver say an Ari­zona De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety sergeant who used his ve­hi­cle as a traf­fic break is to blame for a crash on In­ter­state 40 that sent both of them to the hos­pi­tal.

The driver, Pa­tri­cia Car­valho, has been in­dicted on 17 charges, in­clud­ing at­tempted homi­cide, ag­gra­vated drunken driv­ing, and en­dan­ger­ment. The Los Ran­chos, N.M., woman had a sus­pended driver’s li­cense and a blood-al­co­hol con­tent of more than four times Ari­zona’s le­gal limit for driv­ing when she was spot­ted go­ing the wrong way in Flagstaff, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Sgt. Paul Dam­gaard used his un­marked, white pa­trol ve­hi­cle as a traf­fic break. Its emer­gency lights were flash­ing as he swerved side to side to slow down traf­fic be­fore com­ing to a stop in the mid­dle of three lanes on Nov. 17. In a dash cam­era video cap­tured by an­other mo­torist, Car­valho’s ve­hi­cle turns in from an out­side lane, hit­ting Dam­gaard’s.

The De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety said Dam­gaard likely saved the lives of other drivers. At least three peo­ple called to re­port that Car­valho was driv­ing reck­lessly or the wrong way, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment of prob­a­ble cause.

In an email to the As­so­ci­ated Press, Car­valho’s court-ap­pointed at­tor­neys, Steven Har­vey and Kara Sagi, con­tend that Dam­gaard in­jured their client and en­dan­gered her child. They also con­tend the state could be us­ing the me­dia to prej­u­dice the jury pool.

The De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety planned to make Dam­gaard avail­able Fri­day to talk to re­porters but can­celed with­out ex­pla­na­tion.

Car­valho re­mained jailed on a $3 mil­lion bond. An ar­raign­ment is sched­uled Mon­day at Co­conino County Su­pe­rior Court.

State Trooper Rich Moses tried to pull over Car­valho’s ve­hi­cle be­fore the crash, but she fled, made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on I-40. He drove after her with his lights and siren on, but she didn’t stop un­til slower traf­fic around her blocked her path.

Moses then got out of his ve­hi­cle to ar­rest her, reach­ing through the driver side win­dow and grab­bing her arm, au­thor­i­ties said. But Car­valho nav­i­gated around ve­hi­cles as traf­fic be­gan mov­ing and took off with Moses run­ning briefly be­side her ve­hi­cle, court doc­u­ments state.

The crash hap­pened less than a mile down the road. The video shows Car­valho’s and Dam­gaard’s ve­hi­cles hit, throw­ing de­bris and liq­uid about the tree-lined in­ter­state.

Dam­gaard opens his door but doesn’t im­me­di­ately get out. Some­one else checks on Car­valho and her daugh­ter, who turned 2 on Thurs­day. The child was not in­jured.

At the Flagstaff hos­pi­tal where she was be­ing treated, Car­valho told au­thor­i­ties she had seven drinks and two shots, but the smell of al­co­hol was from the night be­fore, court doc­u­ments state. Au­thor­i­ties found open cans of beer in the ve­hi­cle and an open bot­tle of vodka. Car­valho said she also took three pre­scrip­tion drugs as part of a morn­ing rou­tine, the doc­u­ments say.

Her blood-al­co­hol con­tent was 0.365, au­thor­i­ties said. She was ar­rested Nov. 19 after be­ing re­leased from the hos­pi­tal.

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