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SUV parked at St. Petersburg fire station leads to DUI arrest

ST. PETERSBURG — Call it the ultimate case of parking in a fire lane: a drunken driver parked in front of a fire station garage door early Saturday and went to sleep, police reported.

When the firefighters of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Truck 13 were dispatched to an emergency call, fire officials said they couldn't pull out of the station. Nor could they get the man lying in the back seat to wake up and move his SUV out of the way.

So they called police, who arrested Hugo Lopes on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence about 4 a.m.

"They were banging on his door trying to get him up," said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Joel Granata. "They didn't know if he had a heart attack or if he was a diabetic."

It was neither, police said. The 29-year-old Tampa man exhibited signs that he was impaired, according to an arrest report. Lopes was "swaying, staggering, stumbling," he "slurred" his words and had a "blank expression," the report states.

The incident took place in front of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Gateway Station 13 at 11600 Roosevelt Blvd. N, police said. The station has two garage doors.

The crew of Engine 13 was sent to an emergency at 3:30 a.m. But as the garage door went up, they saw the sport utility vehicle in front of them. They were able to drive around it, but it was blocking the ladder truck's vehicle bay. They alerted dispatch, which woke up the ladder truck's crew.

But as those firefighters tried and failed to wake up the driver, fire officials said they were dispatched to help a vehicle in a ditch. Another fire truck had to be sent in its place.

When officers arrived and tried to wake the man up, police said, Lopes opened his eyes, tried to get up, then laid back down. Finally, police said, they got Lopes up.

Lopes refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test or field sobriety exercises, police said.

How could police arrest someone lying in the back seat of a parked vehicle for DUI? According to state law, an impaired driver must be driving the vehicle or be in "actual physical control." Police said they determined the latter part of the statute applied.

Lopes, of 5000 S Himes Ave., was released from the county jail on his own recognizance Saturday. Records show that last year he pleaded no contest to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.

SUV parked at St. Petersburg fire station leads to DUI arrest 05/27/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 10:16pm]
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