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A man is charged with driving while intoxicated after police say he drove an SUV through a parade Thursday evening and injured more than a dozen people – including two Gallup police officers – during the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration.
A court document states his breath alcohol content was three times the state’s presumed level of intoxication.
Jeff Irving, 33, is charged with DWI, open container, driving with a revoked license, aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer, one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in great bodily harm and 14 counts of leaving the scene of an accident.
Authorities say Irving, who is from Pinedale, New Mexico, had one prior DWI conviction on his record, and his license had been revoked. He has been booked into the McKinley County Detention Center.
New Mexico State Police Lt. Mark Soriano said 15 people, including two Gallup Police officers who initially tried to stop the vehicle, were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
“At this time, there is no reason to suspect this crime was motivated by hate. In addition, no shots were fired during this incident,” he said. “Contrary to rumors circulating on social media, there were no fatalities in this incident.”
Among those at the parade was Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who said on social media that he and other tribal officials were in the path of the vehicle. In a video posted on Facebook he said he is thankful for the quick response of those around him.
“I’m sure a lot of people are angry, a lot of emotions happening. I’m angry, but we also have to pray and think about our relatives,” Nez said. “I appreciate everybody’s concern. I’m doing well, my family’s doing well.”
Soriano said around 7:50 p.m. Gallup police were told people were drinking alcohol inside a brown Chevrolet Tahoe parked along the parade route, near South Seventh Street and West Coal Avenue. Soriano said as officers approached the SUV, Irving took off east toward the parade.
“The officers, who were still on foot, attempted to stop the driver but were unsuccessful. Both officers were injured,” he said. “The Tahoe continued eastbound … toward parade participants while officers attempted to move spectators out of the Tahoe’s path.”
Soriano said the Tahoe went east on Historic Highway 66 and “suddenly turned south and struck a parked vehicle.” He said Irving then backed into a State Police vehicle before officers detained three people from the SUV.
Soriano said the two passengers, a 23-year-old man and a 29-year-old man were taken to the Gallup Detox Center.
According to a statement of probable cause filed in McKinley County Magistrate Court:
Irving initially told State Police he had not been drinking.
“I explained to Mr. Irving that I could smell an odor of alcohol coming from his person,” according to court records.
Irving then told police he had drank a couple cans of beer about three hours earlier but did not say what kind of beer or how big the cans were. Irving failed multiple sobriety tests before he took a breathalyzer and blew a 0.24, or three times the state’s presumed level of intoxication.
Tonya Jim told The Associated Press she went to the parade with several family members. She said the vehicle barreled down the parade route, turned and hit a man across from them who was sitting on a folding chair. She told the AP her 5-year-old granddaughter, KaRiah, had been with a group of dancers and was helped off the road by someone. She was not hurt. “I’m glad whoever was holding her hand just kept holding her hand and ran with her to get her off the road,” Jim said. “I’m not sure who she was, but I’m thankful for her.”
State Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, called it a “dreadful incident” and said New Mexico must deal with its DWI problem.
“This should have been a time for our people, our families, and our children to gather and celebrate New Mexico’s longest running and historic cultural event,” she said in a statement. “Once again, trauma has been transferred to another child, another family — another generation exposed to the impacts of substance abuse.”