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Police: Drunken driver hits off-duty officer

DENAIR -- An off-duty Merced County Sheriff's Department deputy received minor injuries when his family car was struck from behind by a drunken driver on Santa Fe Drive near Monte Vista Avenue. Despite his injuries, he managed to detain the motorist for officers.

James Weaver was northbound on Santa Fe Drive at 5:23 p.m. Saturday when he noticed a Toyota Celica approaching rapidly from his rearview mirror. Weaver swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid being pushed into a propane truck ahead of him but the Celica also moved into opposing traffic, striking the passenger side of his car.

The impact spun Weaver's sport-utility vehicle 180 degrees and pushed it off the road near the BNSF Railway tracks.

Deputy Tom MacKenzie, Merced County Sheriff's Department spokesman, said the driver got out of the Celica and started to walk away. Weaver chased the man down and held him for California Highway Patrol officers. Weaver's family members were not hurt in the accident.

Weaver was transported by ambulance to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock where he was treated and released for minor back and neck injuries and has returned to duty, MacKenzie said.

Officer Tom Killian, Modesto CHP spokesman, said Santos Martinez Noriega, 24, of Turlock, was arrested on charges of felony hit-and-run driving, felony drunken driving and driving without a license.

Killian said Noriega was northbound on Santa Fe Drive in excess of 100 mph when he realized traffic had slowed ahead and attempted unsuccessfully to stop.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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