Community service turns into wild ride
By Timothy Logue, email@example.com
CHESTER — Seven non-violent offenders sentenced to community service were taken on a hell ride Friday by a drunk county employee responsible for transporting them to and from their trash-picking duties, officials said.
“It was terrifying,” said one man who held on for dear life as Adonis Robinson swerved in and out of oncoming traffic and hopped an occasional curb while driving through Upper Darby, Lansdowne, Clifton Heights and Aldan. “The guy was absolutely toasted.”
By the time Robinson crashed his county van into a Mercedes in the 200 block of Edgmont Avenue in Chester, six of his passengers had bailed out at various locations.
“I’ve had a lot of people show up for community service drunk, but this is the first time for one of my drivers,” said Community Service Director Walter Omlor, who immediately called Upper Darby police when he got word one of his drivers appeared to be driving under the influence. “I know he wasn’t on anything when left in the morning.”
Robinson, 54, of the first block of Worrell Street in Chester, was charged with DUI, recklessly endangering another person, driving at unsafe speeds, careless and reckless driving, aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence and driving with open container.
He was taken to the cell block at the Chester Police Station and later arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Spencer B. Seaton Jr., according to Omlor, who said Robinson had worked for the county for more than seven years.
“I’m a constable and just happened to have warrants on another guy Chester had in custody,” he said. “I saw (Robinson) there and said, ‘You’re done.’
“Everyone in the county knows if you drink on my crew, it’s over.”
Robinson took his community service crew, made up of at least three DUI offenders, from Media to Upper Darby for trash duty along West Chester Pike at about 7:45 a.m. Friday.
When the group wrapped up its first shift near Upper Darby police headquarters and got back into the van, it became clear something was wrong with their driver.
“He picked us up around lunchtime and drove a few blocks toward 69th Street and then he stopped for no reason in the middle of a busy intersection for about 10 or 15 seconds,” said one member of the crew who requested anonymity. “Then he made a right and hit the curb.”
Robinson made his way up 69th Street Boulevard past the Tower Theater with his crew of four men and three women, stopping briefly at a Burger King near Church Lane and Marshall Road.
“We got out for a few minutes to get some food and nobody wanted to get back in the van,” the crew member said. “One girl looked absolutely terrified and another guy looked at me after we got back in and said ‘Do you smell that?’
“I said, ‘Yeah I smell it.’ By that time, everyone knew the guy was totaled, but I was afraid of the consequences if I said something or turned him in… I didn’t want to lose my (community service) hours.”
After booting his crew out of the van for another 15-20 minutes while parked outside the Pearle Vision Center on Church Lane, Robinson collected his crew and headed for Baltimore Avenue.
“He was swerving really bad and getting progressively worse,” the crew member said, adding most of the seatbelts were ripped out of the van. “We almost got into an accident at Baltimore Pike. He slammed on the brakes and nearly hit the car in front of him.”
Robinson made a right on Baltimore Pike and crossed over Lansdowne Avenue on his way toward Clifton Heights. He pulled over at the Kmart when a woman requested he stop so she could use the bathroom. “That’s when one of the girls called Community Service and told them what was going on.”
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael J. Chitwood said his department got a call about a community service van with a drunk driver in the vicinity of Parkview Avenue and State Road at 1:45 p.m. but the van was never located.
“That was my call,” Omlor said. “I told them, ‘If you find him, test him. If he’s drunk, lock him up and I’ll come get my van.’”
With his seven passengers onboard again, Robinson exited the Kmart lot and headed back toward Upper Darby, again making use of the entire roadway.
“At that point,” the crew member recalled, “one girl started saying, ‘Please stop, please stop. I want to get out.’”
The three women and one man jumped out of the van at Lansdowne and Baltimore with Robinson hardly noticing. Two more passengers got out on Providence Road in the Secane section of Upper Darby after Robinson took them on a wild ride through Aldan. By the time he crashed in Chester, Robinson was down to one passenger.
“I have no idea what brought this on,” Omlor said. “It was purely out of the wild and I was as stunned as anyone.”
The mother of one woman on the crew — a Villanova student arrested for registering a blood-alcohol level of .03 while traveling as a passenger in her friend’s car in the week leading up to her 21st birthday — was furious when she learned of her daughter’s ordeal.
“She was really nervous about (community service) and I tried to reassure her, saying ‘You’re in good hands. You’ll be fine.’ Then I find out she could have been killed.”
The crew member said riding with Robinson was the most persuasive anti-DUI message he had ever seen.
“The first call I made when I got out was to community service and the second call was to my lawyer,” he said. “It’s pretty ironic. I was there for DUI and I know at least two others who were, too. That guy taught everyone in that van a lesson.”
Chester police did not have any information on injuries to Robinson, his passenger or the driver of the Mercedes.