New Mexico State Police search and rescue divers Sgt. Robert Gomez and officer Ben Hazen help guide a white Subaru Loyale through the water at Chavez Park Tuesday evening. (CNJ photo: Eric Kluth)
By Darrell Todd Maurina, CNJ STAFF WRITER
Children watch as vehicle ends up at bottom of lake.
A Clovis man faces drunken driving and reckless driving charges after driving his car into a lake while dozens of schoolchildren watched, according to Clovis police.
Police arrested the suspect about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon near Chavez Park, according to Capt. Dan Blair of the Clovis Police Department. The suspect escaped from the white Subaru Loyale and no one was injured in the incident, but city police, state police, firefighters, and an ambulance team all responded until they could verify nobody else had been in the car.
“This car was intentionally driven into the lake, from our preliminary investigation,” Blair said. “It appears this was a domestic dispute and (the suspect) decided to drive his car into the lake.”
The suspect fled the scene but was apprehended soon afterward, Blair said. In the meantime, Clovis police dispatchers received numerous calls from parents in homes across the street from the lake whose children came back with stories many parents couldn’t believe.
Vickie Cordova was one of those neighbors. Her children had run home trying to tell her about the incident.
“I didn’t believe them, of course, but I came over, saw all the police, and it is true,” Cordova said.
Esteban Gonzales, 6, said the car had been held up by a chain on a boat ramp.
“The car was right there,” Gonzales said, pointing to the ramp. “Then it went down and the chain went over the top and it went in the water.”
Michael Prestage, a seventh-grader at Gattis Junior High, said he came across the scene when walking home from his school a few blocks away.
“It’s a nice day to go swimming, but not with a car,” Prestage said.
Police Chief Bill Carey said he didn’t know what penalties the suspect could face because the initial charges could be increased depending on the results of further investigation.
Carey said he wasn’t sure of the suspect’s motives but said the incident could quickly have become much worse in the 35- to 40-foot-deep lake.
“It’s pretty deep and slopes very quickly,” Carey said. “We take these things very, very seriously.”