Fair warning to drivers and teens celebrating graduation this weekend: More than 40 law enforcement officers from police departments across Pierce County will work in two teams to arrest impaired drivers and teenagers who have been partying illegally with drugs and alcohol.
“Ending up in handcuffs is sure to spoil anyone’s idea of a good time, especially this time of year when many are looking forward to their futures,” said Mike Mitchell, chief of the Bonney Lake Police Department and chairman of the Tacoma Pierce County DUI Task Force.
The Task Force will dedicate the side-by-side DUI and party intervention patrols on June 13 to Timothy “Beau” Bockmann (pictured). The 19-year-old died after being hit on August 2, 2007 by Jase Michael Sellers, 17, who had been drinking with friends at a bonfire party.
Sellers, who had a carload of other teens with him, one of whom was seriously injured, struck Bockmann at the intersection of 214th Street East and Highway 410 while Bockmann was driving home from his job at a restaurant in the Lake Tapps area.
Bockmann’s vehicle was hit with such force that he was ejected from his car while wearing his seat belt. On routine patrol that night, two Pierce County deputies who witnessed the crash summoned aid, but the college student, who had not been drinking or using drugs, died on the way to the hospital. Sellers, who was charged as an adult, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced in February to 31 months behind bars.
To assist this weekend’s special patrol, the Washington State Patrol will set up its Mobile Impaired Driving Unit at the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s office at Sprinker Recreation Center. Persons arrested for suspected DUI will be taken to the high-tech unit, which includes jail cells, multiple alcohol testing machines, and dark rooms to conduct drug tests on drivers.
It means officers will spend most of their time scouting out and arresting impaired drivers rather than processing them, which can take several hours, said Paul Schneider, traffic sergeant with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
Partying high school seniors and others who break alcohol laws will be brought to a community center by a separate team of 13 officers, including three from the Washington State Liquor Control Board. The center will be staffed by seven chemical dependency professionals and parent volunteers who will provide on-the-spot alcohol and drug information to youths and their parents. The professionals and volunteers will refer youths who have or are developing a serious problem with alcohol or drugs to agencies that can help.
The purpose in doing these two patrols on the same night, said Chief Mitchell, is to prevent what happened to Beau from happening to anyone else. “Teens who abuse alcohol are 50 percent more likely to become addicted and regular customers of ours as adults. We want every kid who gets a diploma on Saturday to be laying in their bed, not the morgue, on Sunday morning.”
The county had 15 to 18 impaired teen driving-related deaths each year over a recent eight-year period. Last year, the number dipped to eight during the first year the party intervention patrol was implemented with grants from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the state’s Reducing Underage Drinking Coalition.
A dedication ceremony, which is open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Sprinker Recreation Center, 14824 “C” Street South. Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor and State Patrol Chief John Batiste will speak following the showing of a video about Beau’s life.
Additionally, before the dedication gets underway, the public and media are invited to tour the Mobile Impaired Driving Unit beginning at 7 p.m.