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CITY IN COLLAPSE: Understaffed Austin police took so long to respond to DUI accident that the driver sobered up and avoided charges
By Cassie B. // Mar 28, 2023

The defunded Austin police department is so understaffed that a drunk driver recently had enough time to sober up at the scene of a car accident and avoid criminal charges after slamming into a military family's car.

Lacey Purciful was driving in North Austin with her husband and two children on the afternoon of March 18 when they were hit head-on by a male driver who cut across two lanes of traffic. She said: "Head on, didn’t hit the brakes, airbags deployed, screaming kids, smoke, adrenaline, we started screaming, and got the kids out of the car."

The driver, who was in his 70s, was described by a bus driver who witnessed the accident as smelling like alcohol and refusing to exit his vehicle. Around 30 minutes later when he did get out of the car, he fell to the ground and began making unusual noises.

It’s not just the witness who believed the driver was drunk; the driver himself admitted at the scene that he had been drinking and had just come from a bar. Purciful noted: "Everyone could smell alcohol on this man. He openly admitted what he was drinking. He told my husband he was drinking High Noons. It isn’t just me making accusations; he was just straight-up coming out and telling us and there was no remorse."

She added that he never asked them if their children were okay and never apologized.

Police took 2.5 hours to show up at accident scene

The family called 911 five times after the crash, but the overextended and underfunded police department kept them waiting 2.5 hours before an officer finally made it to the scene.

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The city council of Austin moved to slash their police department’s budget during the George Floyd riots in 2020. Although the state has since stepped in and restored funding, they have not been able to recover their staffing levels, while low morale and police contract issues have led to a string of retirements.

The Austin Police Department confirmed that the call about the accident came in at 4:18 pm and the first officer did not arrive on the scene until 6:35pm.

"Our officers work hard every day to handle the high volume of calls that we may receive and answer them accordingly with the resources we have on hand," a statement from the police department noted. "Unfortunately, this service level differs from the level we hope to provide our community. Still, we consistently review our processes and assess how we can improve in serving the city of Austin and those who choose to visit."

Purciful’s personal injury attorney, Adam Loewy, told Fox News that roughly 25 officers would normally be in that area if they were fully staffed, and the 2.5-hour response time was sufficient for the driver to sober up enough to pass a field sobriety test. He walked away with just a minor traffic violation.

Purciful said her family members experienced injuries such as bruises and burn marks, while she suffered a fractured wrist. In addition, the impact of the crash caused a cyst on her ovary to collapse, causing what she described as “excruciating stomach pain.” Her daughter, meanwhile, woke up screaming in pain during the night due to a groin injury related to her four-point safety harness.

Now, she is trying to spread the word about what happened to her and try to bring the drunk driver to justice. While her attorney said that a case against the city is unlikely because of immunity protections, they may pursue civil options against the insurance company of the drunk driver and the bar who served him.

Loewy said that Austin simply does not have enough police officers. “The real-life consequence of that is what Lacey and Dustin just went through. You call a police officer, there's not enough police officers, and you sit out there on a road injured with your children and no one shows up for two and a half hours. It is disgraceful."

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