San Benito deputy crashed patrol car in Newark, accused of DUI

A San Benito County Sheriff’s Office deputy crashed a patrol car and was accused of driving under the influence earlier this month in Newark, according to authorities and sources familiar with the arrest.
Johnny Pena, age 33 and a Hollister resident, crashed the vehicle in a solo-car crash at 1:18 a.m. Feb. 17 in Newark on Mowry Avenue at the Newpark Mall, said Commander Bob Douglas with the Newark Police Department.
Douglas on Monday declined to confirm whether Pena was a law enforcement officer or if he had been driving a patrol car at the time, explaining that the police department would not routinely share other suspects’ occupational information. He also declined to comment when asked if anyone else was in the car at the time and said he did not know what object the vehicle might have struck.
Pena, one of the local department’s K-9 deputies, was driving a patrol car on that Friday morning when the wreck occurred, according to the person knowledgeable of the arrest, who confirmed that Newark police cited Pena at the police station and released him to another party. It remains unclear, meanwhile, whether it was a San Benito County sheriff’s car damaged in the accident.
The Newark police commander said the department forwarded the case to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. As of Tuesday morning, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office did not have any records under John Pena or other spelling variations for his first name, said a spokeswoman for the agency, Teresa Drenick. She said with DUI citations, the office may not have received it yet and that sometimes it could “take weeks” to enter the system. The Alameda County corrections facility, the Santa Rita Jail, did not have any records on Pena, said Sgt. J.D. Nelson, spokesman for the Alameda sheriff’s office. Because Pena was cited out at the Newark police station, Pena would not show up in the county jail database.
In the days following the arrest, the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office placed Pena on administrative leave, according to an official familiar with the deputy’s employment status.
Sheriff Darren Thompson on Monday declined to comment on Pena’s arrest or the leave.
“So unfortunately for us, if we had a situation of that magnitude, it would strictly be a personnel matter,” said Thompson, who also declined to talk about any repercussions for Pena and responded, “I can’t make any comments on personnel actions.”
Pena could not be reached immediately for comment. He has been with the sheriff’s office since November 2004, according to the county’s human resources department.
Douglas did not return repeated phone calls seeking answers on follow-up questions.
Staff writer Adam Breen contributed to this report.

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