Roadside memorials, weekend emphasis patrols aim to curb impaired driving

Law enforcement officers across Pierce County will mark the passing of a local resident who was killed nearly two years ago by a driver under the influence of drugs.

Gary Slick, 47, a father of three children, died in one of Pierce County’s most devastating impaired-driving crashes when he was struck from behind on the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2012, while walking on the shoulder near the intersection of State Route 410 and 214th Ave. E., just a few blocks from his home. Slick was en route to pick up his truck from a tire store.

According to Pierce County officials, the driver, James Southard Jr., 51, swerved onto the shoulder, hitting and killing Slick. Southard initially fled the scene on foot, but was later identified by witnesses when he returned to his vehicle parked on the side of the road, according to Pierce County officials. Inside Southard’s truck, law enforcement officers found methamphetamine and over 170 prescription drug pills. Last year, Southard was sentenced to an exceptional sentence of 27 years in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide.

“This is another unfortunate example of why drugs and driving don’t mix,” said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “Because of the exceptional sentence, this defendant should never be on our roads again.”

“Gary was the person you always wanted on your team, and he’s not here anymore,” said Slick’s sister, Kathi DePiro.

Southard had previously served 10 years in prison for killing another man in a DUI crash who, like Slick, left behind a widow and children, according to Pierce County officials.

On Friday, the Tacoma Pierce County Victim’s Panel will join Slick’s family, first responders, and the Bonney Lake Police Department in remembering Slick during a dual-memorial sign unveiling. The event, which is open to the public, will be held on Fri., Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. near the accident site in Bonney Lake.

The following night, several dozen officers from law enforcement agencies across the county will participate in the Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force’s special DUI emphasis patrol dedicated to Slick. Motorists stopped by officers will receive a remembrance flyer about Slick highlighting information about both the human and other costs of a DUI. At least six officers trained as drug recognition experts will participate in the weekend enforcement.

In conjunction with the chiefs of the Bonney Lake and Sumner Police Departments and Washington State Liquor Control Board officers, the Task Force will also conduct its Home Safe Bar program Saturday night to remind bar personnel of their responsibility to reduce the number of drivers that leave their establishments impaired. Bars turning out drivers who are subsequently arrested for DUI on Saturday night will be visited by the bar team, now in its third year of operation.