By Troy Torres
So many questions remain from the early-Thursday morning collision of a red four-door Jeep Rubicon into a building that sits on the northwest corner of the ITC intersection. Jerry's Kitchen was destroyed, when the Jeep rammed through the storefront. The crash happened in the early morning hours of Thursday. And by 9 a.m., in what appears to be the fastest major traffic investigation in Guam Police Department history, police spokesman Sgt. Paul Tapao was ready with a statement:
"The case is classified as Auto Ran off Roadway no injuries NO DWI. Ran off road into parking lot and collided with door." - statement from Sgt. Paul Tapao.
And just like that - POOF! No charges. No crime. No criminals. No consequences. It's almost as though GPD wants everyone to forget that there's a big hole where the entire front of Jerry's Kitchen used to be.
Exactly how did the operator of that Jeep drive through the ITC intersection, between two life-taking concrete poles, through the entire parking lot of the plaza, over the concrete barrier, and into Jerry's Kitchen? If there was no arrest for driving drunk or high, then was it a spider? And if it was a spider, did police officers take pictures of it as evidence of an extraordinary reason why the person who rammed the front of Jerry's Kitchen isn't in jail right now?
Maybe it was a flying roach? Or a snake? Or maybe the gas pedal jammed. It had to have been a distraction or mechanical aberration like these, otherwise the more obvious reasons come into play, and these leave us with no-good speculation about police corruption.
Perhaps the operator fell asleep on the wheel. At the very least, she should have been cited for reckless driving. Kandit asked Mr. Tapao today whether any citations were issued. He said he would get back to us Tuesday.
What if the reason for the crash was a heated argument between the driver and her passenger, and the driver just lost it. Well, then GPD would have to explain why police officers didn't arrest the driver for a host of crimes, including reckless conduct, aggravated assault, and attempted murder.
And then there's the most obvious of reasons: the driver was drunk or high. We asked Mr. Tapao whether any and all of the women involved in the incident were tested for their sobriety, and whether police reviewed surveillance footage of the crash to see who was driving and who was present when the crash occurred. He said he'd us the information Tuesday.
In the mean time, rumors have circulated that the women involved in the crash curry special favor among more powerful figures in the police department, and that one of them was herself an off-duty police officer.
Kandit has received several news tips that Guam Police officer Joneen Terlaje was connected to the crash. Ms. Terlaje is the granddaughter of Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje, who is the oversight chairman for GPD. Mr. Terlaje recently called for a legislative investigation into police corruption.
Rather than letting the rumor fester, we went straight to Mr. Terlaje's office to clear the information all up. His assistant, Chris Carillo, told Kandit that Ms. Terlaje was NOT one of the passengers in the crash.
Kandit followed up with this question: "Was she present at the scene?"
"I just spoke with her and I can confirm that she got a call that a friend of hers was in an accident and she went to the scene to make sure her friend was not injured," Mr. Carillo said about Ms. Terlaje.
Mr. Carillo also provided an alibi for Ms. Terlaje's whereabouts on that night. "She was driving her Jeep that night, I seen her," he said, informing Kandit that Ms. Terlaje's Jeep is gray, not red.
But even with that rumor quelled by the senator's office, something about this case, the haste with which GPD classified and closed it, and the police blackout on information a curious public deserves to know only ensures one thing: people aren't buying the company line on this.
And when you consider that the police officer in the picture below is Chris Champion, well, draw your own conclusions. We're going to push this issue with GPD, and if we have to, the Governor's Office.