Ex-Tulare County Deputy Arrested Again

February 5, 2009 11:50:18 PM PST
Fresno Police Detective Mark Van Wyhe says Christopher Swengel had no business being behind the wheel of a car. He said, "With his background he should have known better. More so than anybody." In 2007 Swengel got his licensed revoked after his 4th DUI conviction. What makes his case even more shocking is that the 35 year old is a former Tulare County Sheriff Deputy. Van Wyhe said, "Former law enforcement officer or anybody its just blatant disregard for the law and for the safety of the citizens of our city."Police say Swengel got his first DUI conviction in 1999. The second one came just 9 months later in 2000. His third happened in 2003 and he got the 4th one in 2007. In California driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor and not a felony until after the 4th conviction or a crash where someone is injured.

Van Wyhe, a DUI Detective who's also involved with Mothers against Drunk Driving, would like to see tougher laws for the first DUI. He said, "Everybody views DUI as a social crime. This misdemeanor can take the life of somebody and ruin plenty of lives in a matter of seconds."

Van Wyhe says time after time Swengel thumbed his nose at the law. Two weeks ago Fresno Police got an anonymous call that the former deputy had been drinking at a bar and, once again, got in his car and drove. Police tried to pull him over at a drive thru, but they say he took off and headed south on Maroa. The detective said, "They estimated 70 to 80 miles an hour. Stop signs or stop lights, he would just continue right through them."

Officers stopped the pursuit worried someone would get hurt. But Van Wyhe found him a few days later through the GPS on Swengel's cell phone. He's relieved to have gotten him off the road before anyone got hurt or even killed. He said, "It's scary for all of us. You and me traveling to work and doing our daily routines. It's scary."

Fresno Police say they were able to get Swengel off the road with the help of an anonymous caller. And they encourage others to do the same by calling 621-4DUI. Swengel is scheduled to be in court February 11th for his latest charges.


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