A man with a history of diabetes -- and convictions for driving under the influence -- rammed into several cars and narrowly missed striking pedestrians and bicyclists in downtown Palo Alto Sunday (Dec. 5), prompting a flood of 911 calls to police.
Juan Manuel Quezada, 37, of East Palo Alto, was arrested and taken to Stanford Hospital, where he was admitted after complaining of chest pains, according to Palo Alto police Sgt. Wayne Benitez.
Quezada, who was still wearing a hospital wristband, said he suffers from diabetes and had recently been released from the hospital because of his condition and after having chest pains.
At around noon Sunday, Quezada allegedly drove his full-size Chevy Silverado into a parked car in the 400 block of Cowper Street. He didn't stop, but instead drove toward University Avenue, where he turned right and drove west, rear-ending a vehicle at a stoplight at the intersection of University and Florence Street, near the Joya restaurant, Benitez said.
Quezada then hit another occupied vehicle near Florence and University, and drove west, turning north onto Alma Street, where he rear-ended a parked vehicle at the intersection of Alma and Palo Alto Avenue. He nearly struck two pedestrians -- a husband and wife who witnessed the crash into the fourth car -- when he turned right onto Palo Alto Avenue. The couple had to run out of the way to avoid being hit, Benitez said.
Quezada then continued east on Palo Alto Avenue, nearly hitting two young children and their father, who were riding bicycles.
None of the people whose cars were struck were injured and all of the crashes occurred at low speeds, Benitez said. One of the victims whose car was rear-ended had a sleeping infant in the back seat, he said.
The bumper-car escapade prompted dozens of calls to police, with several coming in at the same time from people involved in the collisions, people who witnessed the original crashes from their seats at Joya restaurant and from several bystanders on the downtown streets.
"I thought at the time that we had at least a half-dozen accidents," Benitez said.
Police were able to intercept the vehicle where a traffic barrier left over from traffic control meets Palo Alto Avenue, just one block west of Middlefield Road, he said.
Quezada was taken into custody and was transported to Stanford Hospital, Benitez said. He did not know Quezada's current status or if he had been released.
Police suspect Quezada had been drinking -- several beer cans were found in his truck -- but remained cautious about ascribing his impairment to alcohol alone because of his medical issues, Benitez said.
"To be fair, he was definitely impaired, but what part of that was due to alcohol and what part was because of his medical condition we don't know," Benitez said.
"There was no doubt that he was impaired and he exhibited intoxication, but diabetics do present themselves in the same way," he said, having slurred speech, disorientation, an unsteady gait and even the smell of alcohol on their breaths due to ketoacidosis.
But "we did a glucose check and his blood sugar was normal. We have a strong suspicion it was overwhelmingly related to alcohol," Benitez said. Quezada did have a valid driver's license, he added.
Due to the presence of beer cans, Quezada's prior drunk-driving convictions and that he admitted he recently had been drinking, he was arrested for DUI and hit and run, Benitez said.
Blood-test results won't be returned for two weeks and will look for alcohol and other substances and medications, he said.