SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A man accused of inexplicably pulling a U-Turn on Highway 99 in January, crossing into the oncoming lane and plowing into Elk Grove police officer Ty Lenehan, killing him on his way to work, was warned earlier that night not to get in the car after drinking excessively.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Solomon, according to a transcript for a bail hearing held two months ago, said Jermaine Walton got off work as a hospital security guard at 6:00 PM that night and immediately began to drink, taking shots of Hennessy and two over-the-counter sleeping pills. A few hours later, he got a call from a coworker, Amber, who invited him to her house for drinks with her husband.
Walton, who Solomon portrayed as a “self-described alcoholic” who confessed to law enforcement that he plans entire days around drinking, then got in the car and drove to Amber’s house, where they continued to drink together, according to the prosecutor.
“He continued to drink to the point that Amber and her husband repeatedly asked the defendant not to get into the car and drive that night,” Solomon said. “The defendant, against that advice, decided that he would get into his car and drive anyway after continuing to drink at their house.”
The California Highway Patrol has said that Walton flipped his car around on Highway 99, placing himself in the wrong-way no. 1 lane, where he rammed head-on into Lenehan, ejecting him from his motorcycle and sending him crashing down to the road below. He later died at a hospital.
Prosecutors said Walton blew a .16 several hours after the crash, which they said placed him at an estimated .20 BAC during the accident.
According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, a .20 “will provoke feelings of confusion, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting” and can sometimes cause drinkers to black out. Some individuals become unable to stand or feel pain.
Solomon said Walton jumped the median after the crash and began walking away when CHP officers apprehended him. A public defender for Walton told the court that Walton approached Lenehan and “asked him to get up.” A bottle of sleeping pills was found in his Dodge Challenger.
Walton’s public defender argued that the .20 speculation raised by prosecutors was “not supported by the evidence” and said Walton’s struggle with alcohol and Unisom were treatable.
“This is not somebody who has a street drug addiction, who has been behind the eight ball with the law,” Maura Delarosa said. “Based on that, this is someone who is coming to terms and being very cooperative and very self-exposing by indicating that he has a problem and is now seeking treatment.”
Delarosa pointed to a written motion she filed in late April, arguing for Walton to be released on bail by citing a lack of danger and heavy pretrial incarceration in Sacramento, which she claimed adversely impacted communities of color.
Attached to the motion was an “awesome student award” addressed to Walton from Vacaville High School, an AAS degree in Criminology and Emergency Response Management from the NCE trade school in Citrus Heights, and several letters from family members and church figures who knew Walton.
“Jermaine [grew] up in the church,” one individual wrote. “He became the youth teacher of the children of our church. He also preached to the whole church from time to time and did a great job of it. Knowing him is to love him, because he’s always there for anybody. He [would] give the shirt off his back if he had to.”
The court also heard from Lenehan’s wife, Jessica, who recalled informing her two children that their father had just been killed in a car crash.
“The recollection is something I will never forget,” she said.
Judge John P. Winn ordered Walton to be held without bail, describing the accident as “carnage” and pointed to Walton’s prior DUI charge and blood test results.
“Here the stakes are dramatically high and potentially life in prison,” Winn said. “I do feel like there are, by clear and convincing evidence, flight risk issues and, in addition, public safety concerns.”
Winn continued, “Let’s say you put your client in rehab or even on GPS, that’s not going to stop the client from drinking, taking pills, getting in a car. There is a solution in every case, [GPS is] it in some, and that’s not the solution in this case.”
Walton returns to court the afternoon of August 3rd, again before Winn, for a settlement conference. If convicted of his second-degree murder charge, he faces 15 years to life.