4th IMPD officer since December hit by suspected drunk driver


Photo from scene of crash on 10th St and Tuxedo St on April 10, 2019

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer is recovering with minor injuries after a crash involving a suspected drunk driver on the near east side.

The crash occurred around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, near the intersection of East 10th Street and North Tuxedo Street.

Officers observed an SUV traveling at high rates of speed and blowing through stoplights. An officer activated the emergency lights and sirens to catch up with the SUV.

The officer was traveling westbound on 10th Street. At the same time, there was another car going southbound on Tuxedo Avenue. The driver, later identified as 41-year-old Rudy Watts, failed to stop at a stop sign and drove into the path of the police car, IMPD says.

“And a result of him trying to prevent accidents, he’s then struck by a potential drunk driver,” said IMPD Officer Aaron Hamer.

The patrol car was pushed onto the sidewalk and collided with a brick building near the intersection. The officer suffered minor injuries related to his airbag deploying inside the patrol car, and Watts also complained of pain at the scene, IMPD says.

Watts is facing preliminary charges of driving while intoxicated and driving without a license, according to police.

“I think it makes us angry,” Hamer said. “We’re seeing our brothers and sisters involved in accidents that can be avoided.”

It’s the fourth time since December that an IMPD patrol car has been hit by a suspected drunk driver, according to police records.

On December 28, an officer was injured after being hit by another driver near the intersection of East Washington Street and Rural Street. 29-year-old Dawn Herring was arrested on suspicion of operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury.

On February 8, 52-year-old Anthony Weeden was arrested for OWI after crashing into a patrol car near Raceway Road and Washington Street.

On March 24, an officer’s car was hit after police say a driver ran a red light at the intersection of 34th Street and Lafayette Road. Both the officer and civilian driver were knocked unconscious in that crash. The suspected drunk driver has not been publicly identified, as the case remains under investigation.

Each time such a crash happens, retired IMPD Officer Santos Cortez has a similar reaction.

“Oh my God, another one,” Cortez said. “It saddens me when I see that and hear about things like that. It’s preventable. It’s 100% preventable.”

Cortez is still living with the result of a drunk driver crashing into his patrol car. In 2012, he was on patrol, looking for a suspected drunk driver that had already caused several accidents. During the search, 27-year-old Jerrel Watkins suddenly drove out of an alley and slammed into Cortez’ patrol car. The crash left Cortez bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

“Am I angry? Am I still upset by it? Absolutely. I always will be,” Cortez said. “But to live my life in anger because of something that can’t ever change, it’s just not worth it to me.”

Cortez returned to IMPD a couple years after his crash and has since retired from the department. Over the last several years, he has worked to spread the message of thinking twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking.

“People don’t realize the damage, destruction, hurt, pain they’re inflicting by getting behind the wheel,” Cortez said. “Call someone. Just think about it before you put that key in the ignition, really.”

IMPD officials shared a similar message Wednesday.

“If you know that you’re drinking, we have all types of ride-sharing apps,” Hamer said, “and it’s important that you use them if you know you’re, just don’t get behind the wheel.”

While trying to avoid living in anger, Cortez says he hopes anyone who causes a drunk driving crash will get the justice they deserve.

“I pray that the person that was involved, that caused the accident, is going to jail,” Cortez said.

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