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A Drunk Ambulance Driver
Posted by Charles Esslinger on Dec 13th, 2013

Regardless of who you are, the choice to drive drunk is both dangerous and irresponsible. However, there are some people that should be held to a higher moral standard. Police officers and judges, for instance, are expected to protect and serve the public. When people in their position drive drunk, it doesn't only endanger the lives of others, it undermines the entire system.

When it comes to ambulance drivers, who are counted on to provide safe transport to those who are sick or injured, drunk driving is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, John P. Lara, an ambulance driver from suburban Chicago, ignored his duties and choose to drive drunk anyway.

Around 10:45 a.m. Monday, Lara was traveling south in an ambulance operated by the Care 1 company. As he approached the intersection of Clark St. and Montrose Ave. in Arlington Heights, IL, he turned on his lights and tried to slip through traffic. Instead of making it through, Lara ended up slamming into a pickup truck that was going west on Montrose.

According to law enforcement, officers that responded to the scene found Lara sitting behind the wheel of his ambulance with his engine still running. One of the responding officers smelled a “very strong odor of alcoholic beverage,” and noticed that Lara's eyes were glassy and that his speech was slurred. When asked what happened, Lara said he was on his way to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center to pick up a patient. However, when Chicago Fire Department paramedics were treating him, Lara was “unable to explain where he was going or why he was using his emergency equipment when there wasn't a patient in the ambulance.” One of the attending paramedics also noted that Lara “repeatedly covered his mouth in an apparent attempt to hide the strong odor of alcoholic beverage.”

As suspicion grew, Lara started acting “very uncooperative.” He became belligerent toward the paramedics who trying to help him and was unable to coherently answer questions. Once it was clear that he had been drinking, Lara was taken into custody. He was treated at Illinois Masonic, where his blood alcohol level was found to be 0.271, which is more than three times the legal limit.

Nick Mendez, an Evanston chiropractor who saw the crash occur, said the ambulance driver seemed reckless as he drove into the intersection. “He was full lights and sirens,” Mendez said. “He came up to the intersection with cars that were westbound and eastbound continuously on Montrose. I just watched and the ambulance didn't slow down at all. It was as if he had a death wish.”

Mendez watched as Lara slammed into the passenger side of a pickup truck, which appeared to belong to a construction company. “I pulled around and I kind of aided the victim out of the pickup truck,” Mendez explained. “He was kind of going in and out of consciousness. He was able to walk and I just helped him in my car, where we warmed up.” Mendez then called 911.

Sadly, this isn't the first time Lara, a 31-year-old from Lockport IL, has found himself in trouble with the law. In January of 2007, he was pulled over for traffic infractions in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Regarding the incident, the arresting officer reported a “strong odor of alcoholic beverage, slurred speech, swaying.” Lara refused a breathalyzer test at the time and consequently had his Illinois driver's license suspended from May 8, 2007 to Nov. 8, 2007. Later, he was stopped at least four times for driving without a driver's license.

In addition to his traffic infractions, Lara has also been arrested for forgery, unlawful use of a weapon, and impersonating a police officer. For this most recent incident, Lara has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence, causing an accident resulting in bodily harm, disobeying a red light, failure to reduce speed, negligent driving, and failing to carry or display a driver's license. He is currently being held on $300,000 bail.


Sources:

Chicago Tribune - http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-12-11/news/chi-paramedic-ambulance-dui-20131211_1_ambulance-driver-pickup-truck-lara