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Harris County authorities make 245 drunken driving arrests during Memorial Day weekend

Nicole HensleyMay 29, 2019

Drunken driving charges were handed to 245 motorists during the Memorial Day weekend during a spate of booze-fueled incidents that left two people hospitalized, officials said.

The arrests from Friday through Monday are an uptick from the 222 people that Harris County law enforcement busted in 2018 and the 223 from 2017, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

“It doesn’t mean there are more drunks out there, it means we’re catching more,” Vehicular Crimes Division bureau chief Sean Teare said, adding that better data crunching has allowed authorities to focus their officers at drunken driving hot spots.

Luckily, there were no fatalities in the city that leads the nation for DWI deaths. Teare called the Memorial Day weekend the kick off to the worst time of the year for Houston-area roads as his office outlined what led to a scattering of the charges.

A 36-year-old driver with no prior arrests in Harris County faces the the most serious charge of the weekend, officials said.

Ricardo Jose Suarez Benitez allegedly clocked speeds of 80 mph as he sped through a red light Sunday night on Westheimer Avenue and slammed into another vehicle. Benitez and a woman inside the hit car were rushed to local hospitals in serious condition.

IN FORT BEND: Officials arrest 7 on felony drunken driving charges last month

The woman and Benitez remain hospitalized and he has been charged with intoxicated assault.

“This is the most selfish crime possible,” Teare said. “If you get on the road, you could kill anyone in this community, including yourself.”

Among the holiday weekend arrests also were 15 people who were accused of their third drinking while intoxicated offense, according to officials.

A 48-year-old woman was included in those arrests after she hit a toll booth on the Sam Houston Tollway and overturned her sedan. Kelli Ezelle, of Angleton, was upside down and still strapped into her vehicle when Harris County Constable Precinct 7 deputies found her after the Friday evening crash.

Dane Schiller, a district attorney spokesman, said her breath smelled of alcohol and she had bloodshot eyes. She allegedly admitted to having drank seven 12-ounce beers that day.

Eleven more drivers had children in their vehicles at the time of their arrests, according to Teare.

A mother of two who kids were in the car was included in the arrests for allegedly confronting Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 1 deputies at a traffic stop involving her husband. The woman, Mariela Gaytan, ignored their commands to stay clear of the investigation and drove past their cruisers on East York Road to see her husband, Jose Luis Ruiz Velazquez, the prosecutor said.

The couple was driving their respective vehicles.

Gaytan was charged with driving while intoxicated with a child under 15 in the car and her husband was charged with his second drunken driving offense, court records show.

Seventy-four percent of the arrests were first-time DWI offenders, according to authorities.

nicole.hensley@chron.com

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