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Suspected wrong-way DWI driver is in National Guard

Brandon Barber (MDC)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

An off-duty police officer accused of driving drunk and killing two men in a wrong-way, head-on crash in the Albuquerque area last weekend is also a captain in the New Mexico National Guard.

Guard spokesman Joseph Vigil said the Guard is aware of the May 1 crash involving 29-year-old Capt. Brandon Barber – also a probationary officer with the Cuba Police Department – that left Diego Arellano, 21, and Alfredo Escaname-Hernandez, 50, dead and Fernando Arellano, 21, severely injured with a brain bleed and lacerated internal organs.

He said Barber has been with New Mexico National Guard for about 10 years.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the families who are affected,” Vigil said in a statement. “We are committed to ending the tragedy of drunk driving and alcohol abuse in our communities and amongst our ranks. Alcohol/substance abuse is inconsistent with the army values and impacts the readiness, safety and welfare of personnel within the New Mexico National Guard.”

He said Guard members who do not follow department regulations concerning drinking and driving are “subject to legal action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Deputies say Barber was driving north in the southbound lanes of I-25 around 2 a.m. when he crashed into a sport utility vehicle carrying the three men. Diego Arellano and Escaname-Hernandez were pronounced dead at the scene and Barber – who smelled of alcohol – was “disoriented” and had a half-empty bottle of liquor in his truck, according to court documents.

Barber is charged with multiple counts of homicide by vehicle, aggravated DWI and an open container violation, according to court records. He was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Prosecutors have filed a motion to keep Barber in jail until trial, citing a previous DWI conviction and his alleged actions, which led to the deaths and “endangered many other innocent people on the road.”

“By choosing to drink and drive, he has clearly shown that he has absolutely no care or regard for the safety and well-being of other people. This is further evidenced by the fact that the defendant has another DWI conviction from just four years ago,” the motion states.

Barber was arrested for DWI in 2016 after he was found sleeping behind the wheel of a truck in traffic on Unser near Central. In that case, Barber pleaded guilty to DWI and was sentenced to complete the DWI First Offender Program.

Vigil said the National Guard was aware of Barber’s previous DWI conviction and he faced discipline. Vigil could not say what that discipline entailed as it happened under a previous command.

“A soldier or airman convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence a second time in their career will be separated in accordance with appropriate regulations,” Vigil said in his initial statement.


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