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AG brings criminal charge against red Jeep driver; GPD chief places 3 officers under investigation

By Jacob Nakamura

Attorney General Leevin T. Camacho at 8 a.m. today brought criminal charges against the driver of the red Jeep that plowed into Jerry's Kitchen the morning of February 26, 2021, according to chief of police Stephen Ignacio.

Mr. Ignacio said that if the magistrate judge finds the AG's complaint sufficient with probable cause, a summons will be issued for the driver to answer to at least a driving while intoxicated misdemeanor charge.

The change in trajectory of the case follows the Office of the Attorney General's independent investigation of the incident. Guam Police Department investigated the crime twice: once within minutes of the crash, the initial investigation by the Tamuning patrol division closing only hours later with no findings and without any sobriety test being issued or surveillance footage being watched. And the second time following a lengthier investigation by GPD's highway division, spurred by public outcry of police corruption in the case.

A passenger in the vehicle - Guam Police officer Joneen Terlaje - was off duty at the time. She also is the granddaughter of police oversight chairman Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje, and the daughter of retired local marshal and former corrections deputy director Joey Terlaje. The reporting officer on the case - Chris Champion - issued a traffic citation to Guam's speeding law. GPD spokesman Sgt. Paul Tapao at the time said the citation was for imprudent driving, the police report stating the red Jeep had been traveling at only 40 miles per hour.

Video surveillance, which was later leaked to the media showed the Jeep passing other cars waiting to turn at the traffic light intersection of Marine Corps Drive Tamuning on to Chalan San Antonio. The video shows the Jeep speeding through the intersection, barely missing two concrete poles before going airborne into the parking lot, where Jerry's Kitchen is, then destroying the store front and kitchen of the popular restaurant. The video then shows the Jeep reversing, then attempting to leave the scene before the occupants run out.

Despite the evidence, Mr. Ignacio told the public that, based on the reports he had been given by his officers, the GPD investigation was done correctly and no cover up was attempted.

This morning the police chief said that based on the new evidence, and the charge brought by Mr. Camacho, GPD has started an internal affairs investigation against Terlaje, Champion, and the investigating police officer on the record.

This is a developing story.

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