GATES, N.Y. (WROC) — A Gates Chili Central School District bus driver is facing multiple criminal charges after she was found to be driving with a blood alcohol content higher than the legal limit, with students onboard.
According to a release from the district, “unusual activity and an unauthorized stop” Friday morning prompted school officials to contact Gates Police to spur an investigation.
It was later determined that the bus driver, identified as Lashonda Griffin, was operating the vehicle with a BAC over the New York state legal limit.
There were six students on the bus, according to district officials, who add that the driver will be charged with five counts of Leandra’s Law violations for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol with a person under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Officials say the driver faces additional charges too.
Lt. Robert Long from Gates Police Department said he found Griffin unresponsive in the bus garage passed out behind the wheel. At that point there were no students on the bus, police said. Lt. Long says this was a first for him in his 18 years on the force.
“Behind the wheel in general — when you’re drinking, that vehicle that you’re behind becomes a missile, a potential death trap,” Lt. Long said. “Many things can happen; you can kill somebody else, kill yourself, kill innocent bystanders. In this case operating a school bus with children onboard brings it to a whole new level.”
David Ferris, the father of one of the students on the bus, says this is not the first time he’s seen this bus driver exhibit odd behavior. He says often times she will show up extremely early, leave without the kids, and then he will have to track her down to tell her to come back.
“When I got the phone call and finding out what had happened…that she was arrested driving my child, and my exchange student around I was floored. Bottom line is this drivers had problems with picking up my child before. And when I heard about this I was beside myself,” says Ferris.
David Ferris’ daughter Mariah was onboard this morning and says the bus trip was very odd. “And then (Griffin) said ‘we’re going to stop at McDonald’s quick, don’t tell nobody.'” says Mariah.
The exchange student staying with the Ferris’, Tu Tran, was also onboard and took video as they were all leaving McDonald’s this morning. Griffin we’re told, stopping for breakfast and taking the students inside.
“To be honest, I was a little bit confused by it,” says Tran.
Lt. Long says Griffin was issued an appearance ticket and released. Her next scheduled court date is unknown at this time.
A statement from district officials Fridays said in part:
“The safety of students and employees is the district’s top priority, and we are very grateful that no one was harmed as a result of this individual’s actions. The families of the students who were on the bus have already been notified. As a result, if you have not been notified, then it was not your child’s bus or bus driver involved in this situation.
We are very sorry that these students and families in this community have been impacted by the unfathomable actions of one person. Please remember this was an act of one employee. The district is proud of its bus drivers and their safety record of transporting thousands of students each day without incident. Out of an abundance of caution, the district is taking time to review safety protocols with all drivers.
School district officials want to thank the Gates Police Department and its officers for their swift action in apprehending this individual.”
First time offenders of Leandra’s Law, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, can can be charged with a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
Check back with news 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.