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HomeBusinessWashington DUI charge abandoned due to California man’s Surrey Memorial Hospital visit

Washington DUI charge abandoned due to California man’s Surrey Memorial Hospital visit

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Bob Mackin

The California man caught in Surrey after allegedly driving a stolen vehicle across the Peace Arch border crossing on July 22 was not booked for impaired driving because he had been given a pain reliever at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Vehicle that was driven through the border on July 22 (WSP/Twitter)

A Washington State Patrol trooper’s incident report, released under the state’s public records law, said he originally pursued a silver 2010 Hyundai Tucson SUV on Interstate 5 near Bellingham because the vehicle was reported stolen and the driver suspected of being under the influence.

The vehicle’s owner had left the keys in the ignition while shopping and the theft from Seattle was reported at 5:30 p.m. Trooper Dexter Beard’s report said he was notified by dispatch at 7:55 p.m. of the northbound vehicle near Bellingham and was one of two troopers in separate vehicles led on a chase that reached up to 185 kilometres-per-hour. 

Before Beard abandoned pursuit near exit 275 to Blaine, a dispatcher said border authorities had been notified. Beard continued toward the Peace Arch at routine speed and turned on emergency lights to signal Canada Border Services agents. 

“The line cleared in the Nexus lane and the Tucson accelerated through the crossing before the border officer was able to close the lane,” Beard wrote. “I advised the officer that the vehicle was stolen and that we had been in pursuit of the vehicle, also asking if they had been notified of the incoming pursuit. They said they had not been advised. They then relayed the information to Surrey PD and RCMP as the Tucson appeared to continue northbound into Canada from the border crossing.”

Beard returned through U.S. Customs but was informed the vehicle had crashed and the driver taken into custody. Police in Surrey agreed to investigate the collision and return both the vehicle and driver. While he waited for the suspect, Clover Towing transferred the badly burned Hyundai at the border to Meridian Towing.

The driver, who had become aggressive and attempted to flee, had been subdued with a taser. He was handed over at 10:30 a.m. July 23 after being treated overnight for a possible punctured lung in Surrey Memorial Hospital. 

“Due to the circumstances of the [suspect] being in Canadian custody for an extended period of time, with medical treatment ahead of a blood sample, I decided to not pursue charges of DUI,” Beard wrote. 

Emil Abdullah Tunsel, 21, of Irvine, Calif., was charged with attempting to elude a police vehicle, being without a valid operator’s licence and taking a motor vehicle without permission. Tunsel remains in custody in Bellingham.

Earlier July 22, tens of thousands of Lower Mainlanders headed south through the Peace Arch border crossing on their way to see the Seattle Mariners host the Toronto Blue Jays or Taylor Swift in concert.

Just over a month earlier, on June 18, a 30-year-old Seattle man was booked on charges of attempting to elude a police vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, theft and assault.

Jordan Joshua Richardson allegedly struck several vehicles waiting to cross into B.C. at the Peace Arch and ran across the border. CBSA officers nabbed Richardson and turned him over to U.S. authorities. That case also featured a Hyundai SUV stolen from Seattle, specifically a Santa Fe. Richardson remains in the Whatcom County Jail.

Under Washington State’s version of the freedom of information law, public bodies are provided five business days to disclose records or notify the applicant that more time is needed. It could take up to 30 business days for a B.C. municipal police force to respond or 30 calendar days for the RCMP, but a Canadian police department may refuse access to an incident report if it believes disclosure could harm an investigation. 

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