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Sheriff’s Office custody deputy charged with felony DUI involving Highway 154 crash

Sheriff’s Office custody deputy charged with felony DUI involving Highway 154 crash

Highway 154 crash

Emergency personnel help people injured in a three-vehicle crash Sept. 14 that blocked Highway 154 east of the entrance to Cachuma Lake Recreation Area.

Charges were filed against a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office custody deputy on Tuesday stemming from his involvement in the Sept. 14 head-on collision on Highway 154 that injured six people, including a local District Attorney’s Office investigator.

Javier Jonathan Antunez, 44, was charged with felony driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater causing injury, along with the enhancement of causing great bodily injury.

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Antunez was heading eastbound on Hwy. 154 in a 2008 BMW when he collided with a 2009 Toyota Tacoma traveling in the westbound lane.

The Buellton Area Office of the California Highway Patrol responded to the collision, which occurred just east of the entrance to Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, just after 7:10 p.m.

A 2017 Jeep following the Tacoma was unable to avoid the collision and struck the Tacoma, according to CHP Sgt. T. Pontes. The Jeep’s driver wasn’t injured, he said.

All passengers in the Tacoma suffered injuries. Its driver, 60-year-old Dolores Gutierrez, suffered minor injuries and two of her passengers, 48-year-old Evelia Dominguez and 43-year-old Enrique Mendez, suffered moderate injuries. All were transported via ambulance to a local hospital.

A fourth passenger, 43-year-old Judith Hall, suffered major injuries and was airlifted via CalStar to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Hall is an investigator with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Antunez and his passenger, 45-year-old Esther Emiko Trejo, suffered major injuries in the crash and were also transported via ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Antunez was placed under arrest following the crash and was off-duty at the time. Antunez was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Erik Rainey. Antunez has been an employee with the Sheriff’s Office since 1999.

Because of Hall’s employment with the District Attorney’s Office, according to spokeswoman Debbie Fox, the case was referred to the state attorney general’s office to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Antunez is scheduled to appear in Santa Maria Superior Court on Oct. 16 at 8:30 a.m. before Judge Gustavo Lavayen in Department 9.

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