LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA — U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson is facing felony hit-and-run charges after he allegedly caused two separate car accidents in Southern California over the weekend, causing minor injuries, police said on early Monday morning.
The first accident happened at about 5:05 p.m. local time on Saturday when Bryson's Lexus rear-ended a Buick which was waiting at a train crossing in San Gabriel, a city just northeast of Los Angeles. The vehicle was occupied by three men who were waiting for a passing train.
"Bryson spoke with the males, then left the scene, hitting the same car again as he left the scene," the San Gabriel Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a joint statement. "The three males followed him in their car while calling San Gabriel Police officers via 911 and asking for assistance."
Bryson, 68, then allegedly drove to the neighboring city of Rosemead where he allegedly caused another collision with a second car, a Honda Accord. Officers responding to the scene found Bryson alone and unconscious behind the wheel, and he was treated at the scene by paramedics before he was taken to a local hospital as a precaution. He was later released.
The statement said two of the three men in the Buick were treated by paramedics after complaining of pain, but neither were seriously injured. The Honda Accord was occupied by a man and a woman, one of whom complained of pain as a result of the collision but declined medical aid.
"The investigation is in its preliminary stages. At this point in time, there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions. All parties were cooperative with law enforcement," the statement said, adding that Bryson's vehicle was stored by police pending an investigation. "The San Gabriel collision is under investigation as a felony hit and run."
San Gabriel Police spokesman Lt. Ariel Duran later confirmed Bryson has been cited for felony hit-and-run, and prosecutors will later determine whether he will be formally charged. "He was cited, which means he's going to be possibly charged by the LA County District Attorney's Office," he said. "That will be their determination at a later time."
U.S. President Barack Obama announced Bryson as his nomination for Commerce Secretary in May 2011, and the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of the former Edison International CEO in late October. "I nominated John because I believe his decades of experience both in the public and private sector have given him a clear understanding of what it takes to put America on a stronger economic footing and create jobs," Obama said in October.
In December 2011, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt announced his resignation after he was arrested for drunk driving. Babbitt was arrested in Fairfax, Virginia, after a police officer observed a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road and initiated a traffic stop.
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