The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 15, 2010

Police: DUI suspect said he lacked legs


BERLIN — A man who crashed his car tried to talk his way out of a drunken driving charge by claiming he had no legs and was dying, borough police said.

Melvin R. Burkett, 66, of Berlin, ran his Ford Festiva into a snowbank on Eighth Avenue on Jan. 4.

A court document said Burkett told the officer who responded that he was unable to take a field sobriety test because he had no legs and could not take a blood test because he was dying.

“Burkett had two legs perfectly attached to his body,” police said.

Burkett told the officer he was driving home from the New National Hotel when he ran into the snowbank and got stuck. He also said he had no driver’s license, insurance or valid vehicle registration.

Asked about his drinking, Burkett told police, “I had one too many,” the document said.

The officer handcuffed Burkett and placed him in the rear of the patrol car. While waiting for a tow truck, the officer said he noticed Burkett turning his head as if talking to someone.

As Burkett was being taken to Somerset Hospital for a blood test, the officer said he heard the following discussion from the back seat:

“Oh damn, there goes my gun.”

“Well, aren’t you going to shoot him?”

“No, I am not going to shoot him. He has been nice to me.”

“Well, I think you should shoot him.”

The officer said he stopped the car at the hospital entrance, drew his gun and opened the back door. There was no one in the vehicle but Burkett and no gun was found.

Once inside the hospital, Burkett first said he could not give blood because he was dying and needed a heart transplant, though he later consented. His blood-alcohol level measured 0.261 percent, well above the 0.08 percent legal limit for drivers in Pennsylvania.

Burkett was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and numerous traffic violations.

He is scheduled to appear before District Judge Douglas Bell of Meyersdale on Feb. 11 to answer the charges.