Troopers warned accused driver about effects of painkillers

Posted: Monday, August 07, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A man driving under the influence of painkillers crashed into another vehicle on the Parks Highway late last month, injuring a Lower 48 couple on vacation, Alaska State Troopers said.

Stephen Capers, 30, of Big Lake had been warned not to drive by a trooper shortly before the crash, authorities said.

But Capers took two pills, climbed back into his car and soon crashed, troopers said. He has been charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and three counts of assault.

A person who knowingly drives while impaired by drugs -- whether legal or illegal -- can be prosecuted for DWI, said prosecutor Bob Collins.

''It's uncommon, but not unheard of,'' Collins said. ''Most people abide by the admonition not to drive.''

Alaska State Troopers said they got a call on July 24 of a car swerving on the Parks Highway near the Big Lake junction. Sgt. Dallas Massie pulled him over.

''I thought I had a DWI,'' Massie said.

Capers hadn't been drinking, Massie said, but he had trouble balancing and spoke with a very slight slur. Capers later admitted that he had taken painkillers.

Massie gave Capers a ride to his sister's house, about a mile away, and told him and the sister that Capers wasn't to drive while on the medication.

But within a half-hour, Capers took two pain pills and got behind the wheel, according to the court documents.

Wasilla police said Capers' car struck the side of a pickup, spinning the pickup off the road, then hit another car head-on, injuring a California couple.

Maria Garcia, 60, suffered a broken back and internal injuries, police said. Her husband Manuel suffered minor head, neck and back injuries. The driver of the pickup said he didn't need treatment, but his dog was injured, authorities said.

Capers was being held at Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility in lieu of $25,000 bail.

''Once a police officer tells you you're unfit to drive, don't drive,'' said Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon, who went to the accident scene. ''Once you violate that, you don't have a chance in front of a jury.''



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