Does Ryan Nuanez, who allegedly crashed into an optical store and critically injured the owner, demonstrate the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana repeatedly raised by pot critics following Amendment 64's passage? Or was he impaired by a completely different substance, or a combination of several? We don't know yet. But at least this time around, law enforcement has avoided turning him into a stoned-driving poster child before all the facts are in, as critics accused the Colorado State Patrol of doing in another notorious case.
Back in January, as we've reported, two police vehicles were struck on Interstate 70 near Aurora. Afterward, Keith Kilbey was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. In an interview with Westword, a CSP rep confirmed that the drug in question was marijuana and spoke at length on the stoned-driving topic. However, test results eventually showed that while Kilbey did indeed have ten nanograms of active THC in his system, his blood-alcohol content was at .268, more than triple the legal limit.
Afterward, a Washington Post piece accused the State Patrol of over-hyping the link to marijuana in the crash in order to further a political agenda -- a claim the State Patrol vigorously denied.
The Nuanez case has been handled differently, despite an opportunity to take the same tack.
At 10:09 a.m. on July 12, according to a probable cause statement on view below, Denver police officers were dispatched to a location near the intersection of East Amhert Avenue and South Colorado Boulevard -- specifically a shop called Accent Optics.
Investigators concluded that a black Chevrolet SUV headed northbound had traveled across the southbound lanes of Colorado prior to smashing into the building. Accent Optics' sixty-year-old owner was critically injured in the crash and three women in the store at the time hurt as well.
So, too, was Nuanez, who was transported to a hospital for treatment. There, medical staff said he "admitted to ingesting unknown narcotics prior to driving." He allegedly had "slurred, mumbling speech" and appeared "disoriented."
The verb "ingesting" suggests a pot edible, but marijuana isn't mentioned in the report -- and Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough confirms that the drug in question isn't specified in other unreleased supporting documents, either. That means we'll have to wait for the toxicology report to learn if Nuanez was legally impaired, and if so, by what. That's as it should be. After all, Nuanez can't possibly qualify as a stoned-driving poster child simply because he's suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.
Here's a larger look at Nuanez's mug shot (he's scheduled to be formally advised of the charges against him this morning), followed by a 7News report broadcast shortly after the crash and the aforementioned police report.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.