Law Enforcement Support

Mission Moment – April 2022

“The police had him”

A mother’s heart felt story of losing her daughter to a drug impaired driver who was earlier stopped by police.

By – Kristine Villatoro

On the morning of February 19, 2019, I was rushing to get ready for work. There was snow forecasted for the next day and since I don’t drive in the snow, I wanted to get in early and prepare.  I could hear my 23 yr. old daughter Anna moving around upstairs, which was unusual that early. Normally, I would have spoken with her to see why she was up, but I was so anxious to get to work that I rushed out the door without speaking to her. We think Anna must have left home shortly after I did, which haunts me as I often wonder, what if I had gone up there and talked to her, would she still be alive today?

Around 9am my 18 yr old son Jimmy called me. He told me there were two state troopers at the door. My first reaction was to say, “oh no Jimmy, what did you do?” Which didn’t make sense because he was a good kid. I now think, why else 2 state troopers would be at my door other than a car crash. Jimmy said the words that no mother wants to hear, “Mom, Anna was in an accident and she didn’t make it.” I remember screaming and I couldn’t speak to explain to my coworkers what happened. My boss had to take the phone and speak with Jimmy, who once again had to tell what had happened to his sister. My boss drove me to my mom’s house where I had to tell her that her oldest grandchild had been killed. At that time, all we knew was that Anna had been killed in a car crash.

I remember coming home that day. The house seemed so quiet and unbearably sad. I was at a loss and didn’t know what to do. I needed to see my daughter, but the funeral home needed time. We went to get Anna’s things out of her car. I broke down after they pulled the cover off the car. I wish I hadn’t seen it. The windshield was broken, the front driver seat was smashed in almost to the back seat, and there was so much glass everywhere. After seeing the car, I was terrified to see Anna. I didn’t know what to expect. I cried when I walked in and saw her, but I think I cried in relief because other than a few slight bruises that we saw on her face, she looked she was just sleeping. But I knew she was gone. As I stood looking over my daughter lying on that cold steel table, I screamed and screamed and screamed for her to wake up. I wanted to just grab her and tell her to please wake up and held her hoping that my tears would somehow will her back to life. I am not sure if I screamed out loud or maybe it was just in my head. I wondered at the odd way her neck looked and what damaged had her body suffered. Wanting to know but really not wanting to know. Later we would learn that she had died on impact from blunt force trauma.

Later that night, we learned that the driver who hit Anna had been stopped by a police officer less than an hour before because he had been driving on a multi-use path. The driver, Mr. Steele, told the officer that he had been confused by a detour sign in a nearby construction zone. The officer performed the standard traffic stop procedures and found that he was driving without a license. He was charged for driving without a license and released with a summons. The officer instructed him to park his car and call someone to pick him up. The officer left the scene at 5:04am.

The driver then got back in his car and left. Within minutes, calls were coming in to 911 about a car driving erratically at a high rate of speed. At 5:12am the call came in to 911 about a crash. Witnesses said he passed 4 cars on a two-lane highway. After passing the 4th car, he stayed in the wrong lane, and as he rounded a curve crashed into Anna’s car head-on. She was killed instantly on impact. He survived.

The driver was later determined to be high on Methamphetamine. He was seriously injured and spent over a month and half in the hospital. He was then arrested and charged with Involuntary Manslaughter, DUI and driving without a license. A year after Anna was killed, he pled guilty to all charges and was given the maximum sentence of 20 years for killing Anna.

I am not sure what was worse, seeing her on that cold steel table, or walking out of the funeral home cradling her ashes in my arms. At the age of 23, my beautiful daughter, Anna, lost her life because someone choose to drive impaired.

The blame for this lies solely on the man who killed my daughter. But the anger and frustration are there. I feel like it could have been prevented. The police had him, but they let him go and then he killed my daughter.

I choose to focus on honoring Anna. I volunteer for MADD in Virginia as a speaker, I have a Facebook page honoring Anna and I have become a certified Forest Therapy Guide to assist people experiencing trauma, PTSD & Grief.

Editors note: “Anna’s Story” as told through her mother Kristine, is featured in MADD’s Roll Call Video Series which can be found at this link https://vimeo.com/channels/1695972/page:2.

Guest Author – April 2022

Joe Abrusci

April Focus on Impaired Driving Enforcement and “420”
By – Joe Abrusci
Project Manager
Drug Evaluation & Classification Program – Eastern Region
International Association of Chiefs of Police

Marijuana use and 420 celebrations are becoming more mainstream as additional states legalize marijuana. April 20th, better known as “420” among the marijuana culture is becoming a more commercialized annual day of marijuana celebration. This day has many gatherings and public smoking festivals throughout the country including the celebrated “Cannabis Cup”. This event features many of the top marijuana growers, distributors and paraphernalia manufacturers showcasing their products. There is continued growing attention and coverage of 420 events in the news, radio and social media outlets throughout the country.

As states move to approve medical and recreational use of marijuana, data indicates an increased number of drug impaired drivers, led by marijuana use/impairment and false perceptions that it is ok to drive after smoking it. According to a 2021 study by Boston University, “the percentage of crash deaths involving cannabis more than doubled from 9 percent in 2000 to 21.5 percent in 2018 and the percent of deaths involving cannabis and alcohol also more than doubled from 4.8 percent to 10.3 percent. Cannabis was a risk factor for alcohol co-involvement, even at levels below the legal limit.”

Law Enforcement faces daily challenges to remove impaired drivers from our roadways. They continue to identify impaired drivers through training in the Standardized Field Sobriety tests and further their skills through higher level training. The Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Program (ARIDE) builds on these skills to give them general knowledge to identify drug impaired drivers at roadside and promotes using Drug Recognition Experts to help them further impaired driving cases and prosecution. Drug Recognition Expert trained officers are skilled to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to alcohol. These officers, also know as DREs, are part of an international program administered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police with support of the National Traffic Safety Administration and the US Department of Transportation. All fifty states participate in the program.

While officers are vigilant to identify and remove impaired drivers daily, additional activities are planned to combat the April celebrations and increased risk of impaired drivers on the roadways. Law enforcement agencies across the country are stepping up DWI patrols and checkpoints, staffing them with DREs to aid in better identifying drug impaired drivers at roadside. These types of details are being run on statewide levels as well as by local agencies. The Nebraska Department of Transportation-Highway Safety Office is funding statewide Drug Impaired Driving Enforcement details April 18-24 with emphasis on April 20th. The Nebraska State Patrol will be conducting checkpoints and saturation patrol details in counties bordering Colorado and Wyoming as well other locations. The Omaha and Lincoln Police Departments have set up saturation patrols and extra shifts for DREs during this time period with an emphasis on an April 20th concert in their venue featuring pro-marijuana artists. The South Dakota Highway Patrol has similar plans for a concert by the same artist on the previous day. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon is running grant funded DUI patrols to put DREs on the road. These are a few examples of the many specialized details in place throughout the country, utilizing DREs, to combat drug impaired driving during the month of April. The DRE program currently has over 8,000 certified Drug Recognition Experts throughout the country and continues to grow. Officers can make their communities safer by preparing for an uptick in drugged driving on and around April 20 and, when appropriate, involving a DRE when drug impairment is suspected.

Editor’s note:  Of interest, the IACP Annual DECP report for 2020 can be found here 2020 Annual Report.pdf (theiacp.org).

Officer of the Month – April 2022

MADD April 2022 Officer of the Month

Chief Ryan Kinnan

Auburn Police Department, California

MADD National selects Chief Ryan Kinnan as our Officer of the Month for April 2022. Chief Kinnan is the Chief of the Auburn, California Police Department.

Chief Ryan Kinnan takes a proactive approach to keeping our roads safe. MADD works closely with him and the Auburn Police Department on education and awareness for businesses where learning about the impact of DUI will become a part of their liquor license process.

Chief Kinnan also took the initiative to make last August, Drunk Driver Awareness Month for his department and city. The Auburn Police Department has designed and produced the first ever MADD Police Awareness Patch. All officers in the Auburn Police Department wore the patch on their uniform during the month of August 2021. The Chief also included awareness posts on the department’s social media during the campaign.

Chief Ryan Kinnan and Lieutenant Brian Morrison wearing the MADD/Auburn Patch

Chief Kinnan is a strong supporter of MADD and our mission to end drunk driving. He never says no to MADD and fully supports the mission.

We are proud to select Chief Ryan Kinnan of the Auburn, California Police Department as the MADD April 2022 Officer of the Month. We wish him the best in safety and wellness in the remaining years of his career and service to the citizens of Auburn and the State of California.

Thank you to MADD Northern California, Sacramento Affiliate’s Program Coordinator Lori Bergenstock and Victim Specialist Rhonda Campbell for their nomination of Chief Kinnan for this MADD recognition.

MADD extends our deepest condolences to the agencies and families who have lost officers and loved ones in the line of duty

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For a complete listing of Officers lost in the line of duty, please visit: www.odmp.org

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