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Drunken drivers charged in Thanksgiving patrols in Riverside

Edward Lopez, 25, and Eugene Garza, 33 | Riverside Police Department

Riverside police are ramping up patrols aimed at preventing impaired drivers during the Thanksgiving holiday week, and two men have already been charged with DUI in the western suburb.

At 3:06 a.m. Friday, an officer pulled over a vehicle that was driving 54 mph in a 30 mph zone and weaving around traffic on Harlem Avenue, according to a statement from Riverside police. The vehicle did not immediately stop, but turned onto the 300 block of East Burlington.

The 25 year-old driver, Edward Lopez, smelled of alcohol and failed all sobriety tests, police said. He told officers his license was suspended for a prior DUI. After a half empty bottle of Jameson was found in his car, Lopez told officers he had been taking shots of Jameson all night, and continued to do so while driving.

Lopez, of the 2600 block of South Grove Avenue in Berwyn, was charged with aggravated drunk driving, driving with a suspended license, speeding, driving with open alcohol and several other traffic violations. Officers then learned Lopez was also wanted for a traffic warrant for driving while his license was suspended due to a prior DUI conviction.

At 2:16 a.m. Saturday, an officer pulled over a vehicle that was driving 50 mph in a 30 mph zone and was also drifting into other lanes of traffic, police said. After being stopped, the driver, 33-year-old Eugene Garza, told the officer he was on his way home from a bar in Berwyn where he had been drinking all night.

Garza failed all field sobriety tests and had a .19 blood alcohol content, police said. While searching his car, police found open cans of beer along with an ice chest stocked with more beer. Garza told officers after he left the bar, he decided to purchase more liquor for his drive home to Chicago. After he was arrested, police also found cannabis and drug paraphernalia.

Garza, of the 1900 block of West 34th Place, was charged with DUI, speeding, transportation of open alcohol, possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“In both of these arrests, the drivers stated that they were out early celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family but decided to drive home intoxicated. Not only did they get into their vehicles intoxicated but continued to drink while driving home,” Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said in the statement.

“Riverside police will continue to arrest drunk and drugged drivers, however, we cannot arrest our way out of this behavior,” Weitzel said. “Society needs to put stronger emphasis and resources into the current social programs to help curb alcoholism and illegal drug use.”