A Palo Alto police officer has been identified in a 2009 arrest for driving under the influence after he rolled his SUV on U.S. Highway 101, according to court documents.
Officer Eric Anthony Bulatao was driving southbound on the freeway on July 7, 2009, when he rolled his Ford Explorer just before 1 a.m. near the San Antonio Road off ramp.
Bulatao told police he had been drinking at The Old Pro bar in Palo Alto that evening and had two beers, according to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) report. But his blood alcohol level later tested at .16 percent, twice the legal limit, according to the misdemeanor complaint.
CHP Officer Kevin Gualtieri responded to a call regarding a collision on the freeway and found Bulatao at the scene. A strong odor of alcohol emitted from his breath. Bulatao's speech was extremely slow and slurred. He was swaying two to three inches in a circular motion, according to Gualtieri.
Bulatao refused to answer the officer's questions and would not do field sobriety tests as requested. Bulatao stated he knew what Officer Gualtieri was doing and "was not going to allow me to build a case on him," according to the report.
Bulatao was placed under arrest and Gualtieri placed him in the passenger seat of his vehicle, transporting him to the Santa Clara County Jail, where he submitted to a blood test.
An acting Highway Patrol sergeant called the Palo Alto police and Bulatao was released to Sgt. Zach Perron, according to the report.
Bulatao told police that a black Honda had been tailgating his car and he pulled off on the San Antonio Road off ramp to let the car pass. The Honda driver cut off his car as Bulatao was exiting the off ramp and he had swerved to avoid an accident, rolling his car, he said. He told Gualtieri he was not sure what exit he was on, but was in San Jose and was almost home, according to the report.
Bulatao's SUV sustained major damage: the hood was dented and scraped, the windshield shattered, the roof and right side were dented and scraped, a mirror was ripped off, the right side frame was scraped and the rear window shattered. There was "360-degree roll-over damage" to the vehicle, according to the report.
The CHP report found that Bulatao made a sharp movement, turning to the right and back left, and lost control of the vehicle. The SUV spun counter-clockwise, overturned and the passenger-side frame collided with the raised asphalt curb. The vehicle continued to roll and the passenger side collided with the asphalt and dirt embankment. The SUV landed on the driver's side facing in an easterly direction.
A security guard patrolling the back lot of a building near the off ramp saw the SUV on its side, according to the report. The guard drove up to the fence and saw a light in the vehicle. He yelled if the occupant was "OK." A male voice responded, "Yeah, I am OK." The guard saw the man, who was later identified as Bulatao, exit the vehicle's rear window.
Palo Alto police and the Highway Patrol would not release the officer's identity after the accident. But police confirmed the officer is Bulatao after the Daily Post ran a story Friday identifying him.
According to a report from Independent Police Auditor Michael Gennaco, the officer was arrested after he was involved in a single-vehicle rollover collision. He pleaded no contest to drunk driving and was put on criminal probation, forced to pay a fine and relegated to desk duty. He was also required to do six days of weekend work program and required to go through a "fitness for duty review" before returning to active patrol duty.
Bulatao, who was 26, did not have any prior DUIs. He was sentenced in August 2009 and paid approximately $1,760 in fines. He is on probation until August 2012, according to court documents.
Palo Alto Lt. Sandra Brown said Bulatao is now back on patrol and is doing "an excellent job."
"He did what he did, he paid for it and finished all his requirements," Brown said. "He's been really good since and we have no more concerns about this incident."
The Palo Alto Police Department had conducted its own investigation and found Bulatao in violation of two department policies: a violation of a misdemeanor statute and "conduct unbecoming a member of the department."
Gennaco concluded in a March 2010 report that the department's response was "appropriate and within the standards of progressive police agencies."
"The days when law enforcement agencies could take a relatively tolerant view of off duty alcohol related arrests are over and appropriately so," Gennaco wrote. "However, it is also important to note that alcohol related lapses in judgment are often amenable to accountability, rehabilitation and monitoring."
Bulatao was pivotal in helping Palo Alto police solve the brutal kidnapping, attempted murder and sexual assault of a Gunn High School student in 2007. Bulatao recognized a police sketch of the suspect and identified Todd Burpee, leading to his arrest and conviction in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Burpee received 43 years to life in prison in 2009.