YAKIMA, Wash. — A repeat drunk driver was convicted Friday on all charges, including his fifth intoxicated-driving offense, in connection with a dangerous high-speed pursuit last year in Union Gap and Yakima.
A Yakima County jury convicted 45-year-old Jose Mendez of Selah of felony driving under the influence as well as attempting to elude police, possession of heroin, possession of cocaine and driving with a revoked license. The eluding conviction carries a sentencing enhancement.
The case stemmed from a chase on the night of Oct. 10 that began when a Union Gap police officer tried to stop a motorist on South Fifth Avenue for failing to yield.
The driver initially pulled over, then sped off, leading to a lengthy pursuit into Yakima in which the fleeing vehicle ran multiple traffic lights, collided at one point with a power pole and hit another car on South 10th Avenue.
The arresting officer said he captured Mendez after the fleeing driver tried to dump the car near the corner of Nob Hill Boulevard and Stewart Street and run off on foot.
The officer said he found a bag of heroin in a bush where Mendez tried to hide; a bag of cocaine was found just outside the driver’s door of the suspect’s car.
Because it was his fifth DUI in 10 years, and because his offender score is at the top of the range under state sentencing guidelines, Mendez faces a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.
However, prosecutors said in court records they intend to seek an exceptional sentence beyond five years. A sentencing date was set for March 8.