HAMILTON - A Polson man drunk to the point that he became unable to recite the alphabet was arrested by Stevensville authorities early Saturday morning and booked with felony DUI.
A second felony arrest early Sunday morning, meanwhile, came only after a 20-mile high-speed chase that ended in an accident.
At 1:19 a.m. on Saturday, Stevensville Police Officer Josh Ray noticed the taillight covers missing on a vehicle driven by Mark Everett Rasmussen, 45, of Polson, at the intersection of West Third and Main streets. Ray followed Rasmussen as he made a left turn on to Fifth Street - a turn so wide that two of the vehicle's tires went off the pavement.
Ray stopped Rasmussen and noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle. Ray said Rasmussen nearly fell getting out of his vehicle, had to put a hand on the vehicle for balance and stumbled while walking.
When Ray raised a finger in front of Rasmussen's face and asked him if he could see it, Rasmussen asked, "Which one?" When asked to recite the alphabet, Rasmussen made it to "O" and then added "P-S-T-U-R-X-V-4."
Rasmussen declined to take another field sobriety test and later refused to take other tests and provide a breath sample. When asked if he was under the influence of alcohol, Rasmussen answered, "Yeah, maybe."
A review of his records showed Rasmussen had been convicted of a DUI in 2003 and in 1987.
Besides the felony DUI, Rasmussen was charged with operating a vehicle without liability insurance and for the broken light cover, both misdemeanors.
Ravalli County Justice Robin Clute set bail at $3,000 on the condition that Rasmussen have an electronic monitoring device installed to monitor his alcohol consumption.
At 3:13 a.m. Sunday, a Hamilton police officer noticed a vehicle driven by Daniel Joel Gingerich, 25, of Sandpoint, Idaho, going 37 mph in a 25 mph zone northbound on U.S. Highway 93 near New York Avenue.
Police tried to stop Gingerich, who continued northbound, straddling the lane markers and drifting to one side and then jerking back. Ravalli County sheriff's deputies joined the chase at the city limits as speeds reached 90 mph.
Officers say Gingerich exceeded 80 mph through the U.S. 93 construction zones and he took out barrels and signs when he swung wide on turns. While in the construction area a tire blew out, but Gingerich sped on, throwing off chunks of rubber, sparks and dust.
Police say Gingerich pulled into a gas station near the Stevensville turn-off only to pull out again and later turn his headlights off. He eventually lost control of his vehicle, crossed the pedestrian path along the highway and crashed.
Police say as they pulled Gingerich from his vehicle he slurred his words, asked how fast he was going, asked if officers had fun on the chase, and said "blah, blah, blah" while being read his rights.
Gingerich was charged with felony criminal endangerment and three misdemeanors - DUI, driving without insurance and fleeing from an officer.
Clute set bail at $40,000.
Reach Jeff Schmerker at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.