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LAPD Officers Accused Of Taking Alleged Drunk Driver Home To Sleep Instead Of Arresting Him

Photo by Steve Lyon via the LAist Featured Photos pool
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Two LAPD officers have been charged with intentionally filing a false report after they allegedly took a suspected drunk driver home to sleep it off instead of arresting him. Rene Marcial Ponce, 39, and Irene Gomez, 38, have each been charged with one felony count of filing a false report and conspiracy to commit an act injurious to the public, according to a release from the L.A. County District Attorney's office.

The alleged incident occurred in 2014. The two officers responded to a crash in the 3000 block of East Side Blvd. in Boyle Heights in the early morning hours of October 26. There, a driver had crashed into two parked cars, according to prosecutors.

Instead of conducting a sobriety test, the two are accused of simply writing a report in which they said they found no driver at the scene. They then took the driver home in their patrol car and told him to go to bed.

Neighbor Larry Chavez told the L.A. Times that the crash woke him up. When he went outside, he spotted the driver, who tried to flee the scene. Chavez said he and two neighbors detained the driver until police arrived.

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"He was so drunk," Chavez told the Times. Chavez said he saw the officers handcuff the driver and put him in the back of their car.

The driver, whose identity has not been released, appears to have had no connection to either officer or the LAPD, according to Deputy D.A. Martha Carrillo. She told LA Weekly that he was also not a public figure.

Both officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Ira M. Salzman, who represents Gomez, denies the accusations against her. He says his client didn't take the driver home, nor did she file a false report. In fact, he says the two officers even impounded the driver's Mustang. He wants to know why this incident, which occurred nearly two years ago, is being brought up now.

Both officers have been removed from duty, with pay, while the investigation continues. If convicted as charged, each may face up to three years in local custody.

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