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National City Police Chief to Retire After Drunk-Driving Arrest

October 13, 2003|Nita Lelyveld | Times Staff Writer

The police chief of National City was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after smashing his car into a parked car in a parking lot in neighboring Chula Vista, police said.

Anthony "Skip" DiCerchio, 65, was charged with one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence after the incident, which occurred about 1:15 p.m. Thursday, according to Chula Vista police Lt. Richard Coulson. The crash caused only minor damage and no one was hurt, Coulson said.

DiCerchio had been on medical leave since June and had undergone rotator-cuff surgery in July. Publicly, he had spoken of returning to his job, although he had announced plans to retire in July 2004, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. His wife, Carolyn, told the newspaper that he now planned to submit retirement papers today. "That's it. It's over with," she said.

The National City Police Department referred questions about DiCerchio to the city manager's office. Reached at home Sunday, acting City Manager Park Morse said he would comment only during regular business hours.

The Union-Tribune said that concerns about DiCerchio had been forwarded to the city manager's office last October after officers reported that he had arrived at the scene of a shootout smelling like alcohol.

DiCerchio began his police career in 1959 in San Diego, where he was the top-ranking department official in a multi-agency narcotics task force in the 1990s. He led the National City police force for seven years.

In recent years, the police force had faced some bad publicity. In 2001, an officer shot an unarmed 19-year-old in the back. Emmanuel Sotelo later died, and his family filed a lawsuit, which is pending. The officer who shot him was fired.

In 2002, the city paid $750,000 to settle a female police officer's sexual-discrimination lawsuit. DiCerchio had fired her in 1999.

In Chula Vista, Coulson said DiCerchio was treated like any other suspect in similar circumstances. An officer on the scene smelled alcohol, he said. DiCerchio was arrested and later released on his own recognizance.

"We have hundreds of people arrested for drunk driving. He's no different," Coulson said. "

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