The Livingston Police Department's horse-mounted units are good for connecting with the community at events such as Sunday's Cinco de Mayo Festival, Chief Ruben Chavez said.
But on Sunday, one of the horses and a mounted reserve officer also showed they can spot and stop an alleged drunk driver.
Livingston Reserve Officer Joe Cruz was mounted on Sonny, one of the department's horses, patrolling the perimeter of the Cinco de Mayo Festival about 5:20 p.m. Sunday at the Max Foster Sports Complex when Cruz spotted a black Chevrolet SUV turning left from Aldrich Avenue onto Walnut Avenue, Chavez said.
The SUV had taken a wide turn, catching Cruz's attention, and continued west hitting a curb before halting at the four-way stop at Walnut Avenue and Dwight Way, Chavez said.
Cruz and Sonny galloped to the vehicle as it was stopped and tapped on the window, Chavez said. When the driver, later identified as 42-year-old Livingston resident Angel Ramirez, rolled down the window, Cruz reportedly noticed Ramirez's eyes looked glossy.
Cruz called backup, leading California Highway Patrol Merced to respond along with two more Livingston officers, Chavez said.
Intoxication tests were performed on Ramirez, Chavez said, adding that Ramirez's blood alcohol content was reported at 0.22, nearly three times the legal limit to drive. Investigators also found Ramirez's drivers license was suspended or revoked.
Ramirez also was found to have an extensive drunken-driving history with multiple DUI arrests and several suspensions of his drivers license, Chavez said. Merced County Superior Court records indicate Ramirez has multiple felony DUI convictions.
Cruz and Sonny monitored the arrest, Chavez said.
"We're just honored to have reserve officers dedicated to our community," Chavez said. "And Sonny is a great horse."
Sonny was acquired two years ago as the third horse serving Livingston Police.
"We go out and try to make contact with a person who wouldn't normally approach a police officer," Cruz said in a Sun-Star interview when Sonny came to Livingston. "(A horse is a) very, very good public relations tool."
Along with building friendlier relations with the community, Chavez said mounted police units often have a better vantage point during patrol because they are higher in the air and able to see over vehicles.
"The families are more apt to come up and talk with you," said Chavez, who also is one of the department's mounted riders. "But at the same time, if you need enforcement action, the horses are a big deal because they will also clear out a crowd in no time flat."