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Vehicle struck in Lansford parking lot, driver charged

Published February 15. 2012 05:01PM

Neil Kennedy, 54, of 10 W. Bertsch St., Lansford, faces charges from an incident which took place at 12:45 a.m. Sept. 4, 2011, at Turkey Hill. Charges of (two counts) driving under the influence and careless driving were filed by Det./Sgt. Jack Soberick.

According to an affidavit of probable cause:

Soberick was on duty with Officer Amie Barclay when he got a dispatch about one vehicle striking another one in the Turkey Hill parking lot, then fleeing. Witnesses described a dark color Ford Escape, and told police the SUV had backed across the width of the parking lot and struck a parked vehicle, then left, turning east onto Bertsch Street.

Soberick had been patrolling in the area and arrived within a minute. While checking Bertsch Street, he saw a dark color Mazda Tribute SUV parked in a spot in front of 10 W. Bertsch St.

Soberick was familiar with the vehicle, which is co-produced and sold both by Ford as the Escape and by Mazda as the Tribute. Upon checking, he saw what appeared to be slight contact marks on the rear bumper of the vehicle.

He knocked on the door of 10 W. Bertsch and spoke with Kennedy. Soberick noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Kennedy's breath. He told Kennedy he had just been involved in a minor crash in the Turkey Hill parking lot, Kennedy denied striking anything and claimed he had just been in the store and left without incident.

Asked to produce his driver's license, Kennedy passed by it several times in his wallet, and found it necessary to sit down while he searched. Soberick pointed out the document and asked Kennedy to hand it to him.

After taking the license, Soberick noticed Kennedy's speech was slurred and that he spoke with a thick tongue. Kennedy was swaying noticeably and exhibited poor coordination and balance.

Based on his observations, Soberick believed Kennedy was and had been under the influence of alcohol to the degree that rendered him unable to drive safely as he drove from the minimart to his home.

He arrested Kennedy and took him to St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital in Coaldale for blood tests. Kennedy's blood alcohol level was 0.29 percent. The threshold for drunken driving is 0.08 percent, according to law.

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