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Auburn man facing DUI, vehicle theft charges after Agard Street crash

By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn man is in jail and facing several charges after a crash on Agard Street left his car in flames and emergency responders trying to free him from the car. Patrick Jonalthon Pujol, 19, was driving at least twice the speed of the 25-mile-per-hour limit on the Auburn street at 1:30 a.m. Aug. 16 when an Auburn police officer attempted to stop him for drunken driving, according to Sgt. Michael Garlock, of the Auburn Police Department. “We had a report from a citizen that they had contact with this individual, and he was intoxicated,” Garlock said. “The officer attempted to make a traffic stop on the car. Of course the car didn’t stop, and (Pujol) drove away from the officer. But the officer wasn’t actively pursuing him. He was trying to follow him, but from a distance.” Pujol ended up crashing the 2008 Toyota Yaris he was driving into a Union Pacific Railroad metal signal box near the tracks at Agard and Stadium Way, according to Garlock. Garlock said the crash caused a fire to start under the car’s hood, and Officers Richard Blanco and Joe Almeida had to keep Pujol from getting burned because he was pinned under the dashboard and steering wheel. “Our two officers used at least three fire extinguishers to keep the fire away from him until medical personnel could extract him from the car,” Garlock said. “And they were trying to free him, but they couldn’t. I think that’s the most important part of this story is this gentleman, his life was saved by these officers, and he didn’t hurt anyone else in the process of driving intoxicated.” Garlock said neither Pujol nor the officers were burned by the fire. Agard Street resident Kathleen Sailor said she witnessed part of the crash. “We were awoken by the sound of police cars traveling at high speed in our neighborhood,” Sailor said. “The man they were chasing was extremely lucky to have survived the crash. The car went airborne before hitting a transformer on the railroad tracks, knocking it at least six feet and turning it onto its side. Soon there were a multitude of emergency vehicles at the scene. At least three fire trucks, four police cars and an ambulance rushed in. Only after 20 minutes could they extract the young man from the mangled wreck.” Garlock said whether Pujol will have to pay Union Pacific for the signal box is between their two insurance companies or if any restitution is ordered as part of a potential sentencing in the future. Pujol was transferred to Sutter Roseville Medical Center and then booked into Placer County Jail on charges of driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and a felony of taking an owner’s vehicle without permission, according to jail records. Garlock said the Yaris was allegedly Pujol’s parents’ car. Pujol is also being held on remanding orders of vandalism of $400 or more, a felony, and a misdemeanor of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, according to jail records. This isn’t Pujol’s first contact with local law enforcement. He was arrested in May 2010 in connection to several graffiti incidents in Auburn. Pujol was in custody as of Tuesday evening with a $55,000 bail. He is scheduled for an early status conference at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Auburn’s Placer County Jail courtroom. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com