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Cops: Champion should have arrested actual driver for reckless driving

Chris Champion

By Jacob Nakamura

"The driver should have been arrested."

"Champion should have arrested that driver."

"She should have been booked, and if she was drunk or high she should have been confined over night."

"I don't know why that driver wasn't arrested."

"The chief is just saying that because he has to. He knows they [expletive] up."

Each of the quotes above came from a different police officer to Kandit News. Some of them made these comments before seeing the video surveillance footage of the February 25 crash of a red Jeep into Jerry's Kitchen. The others made the comments afterward.

"It was clearly reckless driving, and maybe even driving under the influence," another officer said. "But it was certainly not just imprudent driving."

Officer Chris Champion, who responded to the crash, cited the supposed driver of the red Jeep for imprudent driving, which is a simple traffic violation under Guam law.

"Imprudent driving is very different from reckless driving," a retired highway patrol officer told Kandit. "Changing lanes without signaling and only looking at your sideview mirror is imprudent driving. But having a complete disregard for the lives and property of others on the road is reckless driving. And that's a crime."

Mr. Champion issued the imprudent driving citation despite the major damage done to Jerry's Kitchen and without reviewing surveillance footage to verify that the person who said she was the driver actually was the driver during the crash. Guam Police Officer Joneen Terlaje was a passenger in that red Jeep. Prior to confirmation that an off-duty officer was a passenger in the Jeep, Terlaje's grandfather's office told Kandit News that Officer Terlaje said she was not involved in the crash.

Mr. Champion also did not administer any blood alcohol content or field sobriety test to the supposed driver prior to the citation, nor did the veteran officer consider the accident happened as a result of reckless driving.

Video surveillance footage obtained by the Pacific Daily News shows the red Jeep overtaking several cars in the left-turning northbound lane of Marine Corps Drive at the ITC intersection at a high speed before crossing into the oncoming lanes, hitting the pavement at the corner of the intersection, then becoming airborne between two concrete poles and smashing into the restaurant.

"That is absolutely reckless driving," another police officer said.

Guam law states: "Every person who drives any vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving."

A first conviction for reckless driving, a crime, constitutes a petty misdemeanor. Do it again, and it's a misdemeanor. Both mean jail time, and a criminal record.

"There's no way Champion didn't see that this is reckless driving," yet another police officer said. "The question is, why did this need to be covered up? This makes me wonder whether it was the police officer who was really driving. What's the real story here?"

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