Suspected incapacitated driver drove onto AGC steps, arrested by LAPD

Photo courtesy of Campus Safety.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) arrested a suspected incapacitated driver on Occidental College’s campus the morning of Oct. 5. According to Director of Campus Safety Rick Tanksley, at 6:50 a.m. Campus Safety arrived on campus and saw a white SUV lodged on the stairs of the Arthur G. Coons administrative center (AGC) patio. Campus Safety immediately called LAPD, who brought the suspect into custody. There were no injuries.

According to Tanksley, the vehicle passed through a set of traffic poles at the north end of Bird Road and entered the AGC patio area, before going down one set of steps and attempting to ascend another set of steps in the direction of Johnson Hall where the vehicle became lodged.

Campus Safety Sergeant Larry Bolden said he was conducting morning unlocks — unlocking public buildings on campus, which is one of the routine duties of Campus Safety officers each morning — when he noticed the vehicle sitting on the steps outside the AGC.

“I [looked] to my right and there was a car parked on the steps,” Bolden said. “My original thinking about this was that the car was abandoned, someone made a mistake and they left. But as I approached, someone got out of the driver’s side.”

The woman voluntarily exited the vehicle prior to LAPD’s arrival to talk with Campus Safety, according to Tanksley. A male passenger in the vehicle did not cooperate with Campus Safety and left the scene before LAPD arrived, Tanksley said. The male passenger is not a suspect and is not wanted for questioning, Tanksley said.

Bolden said the woman told him the car had gotten stuck on the steps about 40 minutes before he arrived on the scene.

Campus Safety at the scene of the incident early Tuesday morning. The Arthur G. Coons administrative center (AGC) patio at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 5, 2021. Gwen Berghof/The Occidental

Cindy Dong (senior) said she first saw the woman at approximately 5:45 a.m. outside of Wylie Hall. Dong said the woman approached her, asking where she was, and told Dong that she thought she was on a California State University campus. Dong said that the woman then asked her for directions to leave campus, and asked Dong if she knew how to get to Yosemite.

“She was like, ‘Oh you haven’t been there [Yosemite]? It’s really nice.’ And so when I was talking to people later in the day they were like, ‘Oh Yosemite Drive,’” Dong said. “But I was like ‘Why would she say a road is really nice instead of the park?’ Which, I looked it up, is like five hours away.”

After LAPD arrived, they called for a tow truck to remove the car from the steps. A reporter from The Occidental observed LAPD leaving the scene at approximately 8:55 a.m. with the suspect in custody. The tow truck started to remove the vehicle around 9 a.m. based on the eyewitness account of a reporter from The Occidental. 

The suspect, a 28-year-old female driver from San Gabriel, was arrested by LAPD under suspicion of intoxicated driving and driving with a suspended drivers license, according to Tanksley. 

Dong said she approached LAPD to inform them that she had interacted with the woman and LAPD took her information down so that she can provide more information if necessary. Dong said she last saw the woman taking a field sobriety test administered by LAPD by her vehicle. 

Sloan Wittliff (first year) said he was walking to his 8:30 a.m. class when he passed the AGC and saw the vehicle on the steps.

“It [the car] was sideways, up like that. There was a tire that was above the ground. I think there were parts missing from it, I think it had crashed. It was crazy,” Wittliff said. “I didn’t go up super close, I kind of kept my distance. But there were people around taking pictures. It was just a spectacle.”

Eli Pangilinan, the senior human resource analyst at Occidental, points to the area he said he saw the car early Tuesday morning. The Arthur G. Coons administrative center (AGC) patio at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 5, 2021. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental

Eli Pangilinan, senior human resource analyst at Occidental, said it was almost 6:30 a.m. when he entered the AGC and saw a car trying to go up the stairs of the AGC patio to get off of the stairs. He said he did not call Campus Safety because he knew they usually arrive around 6:30 a.m. to raise the flags.

Pangilinan said he also saw a girl wearing shorts approach the vehicle, and she did not seem alarmed.

“I don’t know what the relationship of the girl was to the driver, but she seemed to be trying to give the driver direction on how to get out,” Pangilinan said. “I’ve been here for 21 years and that’s the first time I’ve seen something like that happen.”

This is not the first time a situation like this has taken place on the Occidental campus, according to Bolden, who said another car previously parked on the steps that lead onto the Academic Quad approximately four years ago.

According to Tanksley, Campus Safety has recommended that Facilities install an additional pole barrier at the Bird Road entrance to the AGC patio, in light of this incident.

“Obviously with something like this, you’re just glad no one is hurt,” Bolden said.

This article was updated at 5:32 p.m. Oct. 5 to include another eyewitness account.