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Sheriff's official arrested on suspicion of drunk driving

A top Los Angeles County sheriff’s official was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after she was found stopped in the middle of the Foothill Freeway passed out with her head on the steering wheel of her county car, officials confirmed.

Authorities received multiple 911 calls Friday evening alerting them that a car was stopped in a middle lane of the Pasadena freeway. When California Highway Patrol officers showed up on the scene, they discovered sheriff’s civilian Director Natalie Salazar allegedly intoxicated, with her foot on the brake pedal and her car in drive, an official said.

A test some two hours after her arrest showed a blood alcohol level of 0.20, more than twice the legal limit, said CHP Officer Ming Hsu.

Salazar heads the sheriff’s Community/Law enforcement Partnership Program. The arrest was not her first run-in with the law. In 2009, she was convicted of driving under the influence, Hsu said, and placed on probation. However, she kept her post at the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Salazar has been put on leave. “The sheriff takes this kind of thing very seriously,” he said.

After a previous drunk driving incident, Salazar apparently sent out a memo within the department apologizing.

“I am very upset, remorseful and embarrassed,” reads a copy of the email provided to The Times by a sheriff’s official who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the case. “I want to do whatever I can to make sure that others do not end up having this happen to them.”

Salazar went on to promise to “continue to try to be a role model –- even though I have fallen off the pedestal.”

She could not be reached for comment Monday.


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--Robert Faturechi 



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