The Denham Springs Police Department’s failure this month to keep a drunken driver from committing back-to-back DWIs on the same night and injuring two people, one in the eye socket, is a “black eye on the city,” the department’s spokesman said Wednesday.
“It is somewhat of an embarrassment,” said Cpl. Glenn Lemoine, the Police Department representative.
And the father of one of the intoxicated driver’s victims said he’s angry at both the police and the driver, Jeffrey Blough, 51. One of Blough’s crashes caused another victim to suffer skull and facial fractures requiring intensive care at a hospital for nearly two weeks, as well as surgery Wednesday, the father said.
“He could have been killed in that car,” said Roger Bazile, 52, the father of an 18-year-old man whose arm was injured in one of the wrecks. The teenager’s 17-year-old friend, a backseat passenger, received the head and facial wounds and is seeing double, Bazile said. Two other teenagers traveling with Bazile’s son and his friend were not seriously harmed.
Lemoine said Wednesday a corporal saw copies of Blough’s complete criminal history showing his 11 prior DWI arrests, one as recent as 2009, and OK’d the decision to accuse Blough of first-offense DWI, allowing him to bond out March 19.
Before Blough was released, however, a sergeant may have also signed off on the paperwork, Lemoine said, but the spokesman couldn’t confirm whether that happened.
Blough, of Denham Springs, later climbed into the same black Suburban he used in the first drunken crash and committed another DWI some 40 minutes later, according to records of the two collisions showing matching license plate numbers.
“They misunderstood and misread it. They just misinterpreted it. I don’t know how it came about,” Lemoine said of the officers’ interpretation of Blough’s DWI history. “He should have been charged with a third offense.”
Lemoine said neither he nor the officers knew Blough personally.
None of the officers who signed off on Blough’s arrest report have been placed on leave or are the subject of an internal investigation related to the oversight, Lemoine said.
The incidents come as the Denham Springs Police Department is on day 44 of operating without its chief and captain after the mayor placed the officials on leave following a probe into the handling of a domestic violence call involving a city councilman.
Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said Wednesday he didn’t want to comment on the Blough case and referred all queries to Lemoine.
The department employs about 32 to 34 officers, Lemoine said.
“It was human error,” Lemoine said. “We’re gonna take precautions to make sure this never happens again.”
Blough was released after someone signed an unsecured property bond worth $2,415 on March 19, records show. But the total cash handed over for Blough’s release was only $15, the bond fee amount, Lemoine said.
Though bond forms are commonly released in Baton Rouge, Lemoine has not issued a copy of the full bond document in Blough’s case despite requests, citing privacy concerns.
Two hours after Blough was arrested in Denham Springs for backing his black Chevrolet Suburban into another vehicle in the Carom Inn parking lot at 2311 Home Depot Drive, a department report says, he was released from the agency where he was being held.
His blood alcohol level was 0.183, over twice the legal limit of 0.08, Lemoine said.
The Denham Springs Police Department accused Blough of first-offense DWI, possession of alcohol in a vehicle and parking in a handicapped spot, a police report shows.
“I know when he was bonded out they gave the (Suburban’s) keys to the people who bonded him out,” Lemoine said. “Of course officers always tell the person not to let the arrestee drive.”
Just after midnight on March 20, Blough’s speeding Suburban swerved in front a Honda CRV driven by Bazile’s son, clipping the CRV while the vehicles were traveling westbound on Interstate 12, Bazile said.
The impact caused the CRV to roll at least twice, landing under the overpass at Millerville Road, Bazile said. A Baton Rouge Police report says the CRV was upside down. Bazile said when he arrived at the scene his son’s automobile was on its side.
All of the teenagers in the CRV were wearing seatbelts, Bazile said.
The skin around the eyes of the most seriously injured teenager was so swollen doctors had to wait for the inflammation to go down in order to do surgery Wednesday, Bazile said. The boy, who was being kept in an intensive care unit since the March 20 wreck, will need the attention of a plastic surgeon, Bazile said.
Bazile’s son, who worked at a grocery warehouse, is in the process of being terminated from his job because he can’t lift items with his injured arm while he’s undergoing physical therapy, Bazile said.
“I’m angry at him,” Bazile said, referring to Blough, “and then after that, I’m angry at the police department for letting him out.”
Family members related to Blough — who remained booked at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Wednesday evening on a count of third-offense DWI, reckless operation and two counts of vehicular negligent injuring — said they had no comment about his case Tuesday and warned The Advocate to never contact them or any of their relatives again.
The Advocate was unable to determine whether Blough has retained an attorney.
“(Blough) is doing this to himself, so he knows what he’s doing,” Bazile said. “He’s like a person carrying a gun. He’s dangerous on the road.”
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.