A Cambria man who crashed his pickup truck into a crowded bakery last year, injuring five customers, told a CHP officer that he “blacked out” before the crash and admitted to having mixed different prescription drugs, the officer testified Thursday.
Jeremy Ian Preston, 41, has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of reckless driving, which carries two sentencing enhancements for the two bystanders who allegedly suffered great bodily injury.
It was not immediately clear Thursday what maximum sentence Preston faces if convicted.
On Feb. 25, 2017, Preston was driving a pickup truck traveling at what witnesses described as 50 to 60 mph on Main Street in downtown Cambria just before 8 a.m. He allegedly ran a stop sign at Burton Drive and plowed into a pickup that was pulling into the French Corner Bakery parking lot.
The impact sent both trucks careening into a parked Mercedes and into the occupied building. Five people were reportedly injured, including one customer seated at a table inside who “took the brunt of it,” a first responder said at the time.
CHP initially recommended Preston be charged with driving under the influence of a drug after a breathalyzer and blood alcohol test came back negative, even though a half-empty bottle of vodka was found inside the vehicle, the CHP officer testified.
At Thursday’s preliminary hearing — during which a judge hears basic testimony and rules whether enough probable cause exists to proceed toward trial — CHP Officer Dave Clays testified that he responded to a “chaotic scene” nearly 20 minutes after the crash, when a California Department of Fish & Wildlife officer had Preston sequestered away from a crowd of witnesses and onlookers.
Emergency medical technicians were transporting the injured customers, Clays said, and Preston had suffered minor injuries, including what would later be determined to be a broken foot.
Clays testified that other officers told him Preston smelled of alcohol and seemed “kind of out of it,” though he said he couldn’t smell alcohol. Clays said Preston both repeated himself and changed his story during questioning.
Preston told Clays that he had been taking a sleep aid, anti-seizure medication and an anti-depressant prior to the crash, he testified. Clays also recalled that Preston told him he had recently had two other “black-out” episodes while driving, in which he came to stopped on the side of the road.
Preston reportedly admitted to having a history of abusing pain killers following back injuries, but that he “had gotten past that.”
Clays also testified that in addition to questions about whether Preston was intoxicated because of the medication mixture, a combination of three moving violations he allegedly committed — speeding , running a stop sign and unsafe turning movements — constituted reckless driving.
Another CHP officer, David Agredano, who performed an examination on Preston and testified as a drug recognition expert, mixing prescription drugs and other controlled substances can have “additive effect,” in which two or more drugs cause and compound similar symptoms — or an “antagonistic effect,” in which substances have opposing symptoms, causing “fighting in the body.”
“Often, one drug ends up winning,” Agredano testified.
Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman did not make a ruling at the conclusion of Thursday’s preliminary hearing. After discovering Preston’s defense attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, had not been provided toxicology reports for his client, Harman instead scheduled the hearing to resume Oct. 4 before she rules on whether the case may proceed.
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