Year's probation in earthmover case

Paralyzed youth, mom must pay $10K to TEP, $5.2K to Ashton
2006-06-30T00:00:00Z Year's probation in earthmover caseBy Kim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 30, 2006 12:00 am  • 

A boy paralyzed from the sternum down after stealing a 40-ton earthmover and leading police officers on a 12-mile chase was placed on 1 year of probation Thursday.

Duncan Dresner, 15, and his mother were also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to Tucson Electric Power and nearly $5,200 to the Ashton Co..

The boy will be supervised by probation officers in Albuquerque, where he has moved.

Juvenile Court Judge Jane Eikleberry sentenced the boy after four of the officers spoke at length about the tremendous emotional impact the incident continues to have on them and their families.

"It was truly by the grace of God that no one was killed that night," said Officer Charles Pickard.

According to authorities, Dresner stole the earthmover from a construction site near East River Road and North Dodge Boulevard on June 2, 2005, and drove it across the city while running red lights, swerving from lane to lane and ignoring police commands. The boy also struck a utility pole, knocking out electricity in the area.

Police reports say officers stood in front of the earthmover with their guns drawn as the vehicle reversed direction in the 800 block of North Camino de Oeste, near West Speedway, and started moving toward a group of officers who had been following Dresner. The officers fired at Dresner, severing his spinal cord and rendering him a paraplegic.

Dresner pleaded guilty June 8 to six counts of endangerment involving a substantial risk of imminent death, one count of unlawful use of means of transportation and two counts of criminal damage.

In making her decision not to incarcerate Dresner, the judge said it's clear he isn't a threat to society given his medical condition, and his medical needs would cause an undue burden to the state.

Prosecutor James Coughlin urged Eikleberry to place Dresner on probation, but also stressed the need for him to pay restitution and write letters of apology to the officers and the citizens of Pima County. The prosecutor also asked that the boy be ordered to write an essay on responsibility so it could be published, possibly in a local newspaper.

The 46-foot-long earthmover, with tires over 7 feet tall, could easily have crushed anyone or anything in its path but for the "heroic efforts" of the police officers, Coughlin said.

Pickard and Officers Brian Knight and Brandon Angulo and Detective Mike McGuire took turns describing their fear that night, why they took the actions they did, and the aftermath.

Angulo expressed his irritation with people who remain critical of the officers, calling them "ignorant" and "unrealistic."

"They've never had seconds to react to a situation," he said.

The officer said not a day goes by when he doesn't relive the incident or have his wife ask him to find a different occupation.

Angulo also assured the boy's attorneys that despite their trying to "line their pockets" by suing the city, "We'll continue to show you the same courtesy and professionalism" as the rest of the citizens of Tucson.

Pickard said Dresner had complete control over the earthmover and could clearly hear his commands to stop.

Knight said it was time for Dresner to take responsibility for the "temper tantrum" that put so many lives in danger, and said he hopes Dresner and his parents aren't rewarded for the boy's breaking the law.

McGuire said people seemed to have forgotten that the officers who shot Dresner put themselves at risk by jumping on the moving machine to save his life.

Defense attorney Greg Kuy-kendall persuaded Eikleberry not to force Dresner to write the apology letters or the essay, saying they would be used against him during his civil lawsuit.

He argued against placing the boy on supervised probation, noting he is hardly a risk since his spine is deteriorating and he is facing a 12-hour surgery at the end of the month.

Kuykendall said the boy never intended to hurt anyone. He had just argued with his mother about moving and made a mistake, he said.

"This was an immature and disturbed young boy who did something extraordinarily stupid," Kuykendall said. "Good Lord, he's in a wheelchair for the rest of his life and he's deteriorating as we speak."

Dresner and his mother, Margo Dresner, who weren't at the hearing but listened by phone, turned down the judge's invitation to speak.

The judge expressed concern that Dresner hasn't shown any remorse and ordered him to undergo whatever counseling his probation officers requires.

● Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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