Drunk driver sentenced for crash that paralyzed IMPD officer

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The man arrested in connection with a drunk driving accident that paralyzed an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer learned his sentence Wednesday.

Jerrel Watkins, 28, was sentenced to three years in prison and 180 days of community service after being found guilty on two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and one count of failure to stop after an accident.

“We are happy the justice system has provided some amount of closures to this horrific tragedy. We look forward to the day when Officer Cortez can return to full duty status with his fellow officers,” said IMPD Chief Rick Hite.

On an evening in June 2012, Officer Santos Cotez was dispatched to search for a drunk hit-and-run driver.  Police said Watkins intentionally struck Cotez’s police vehicle while attempting to flee from police.

Officer Cortez was ejected through the passenger side window of his patrol car as a result of the crash. His vehicle slammed into a pick-up truck, containing a man and a small boy. Their injuries, and the injuries to Watkins, were minor.

However, Officer Cortez was left paralyzed from the waist down.

The officer is currently undergoing physical therapy to regain his strength.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs has told Fox 59 News that there will be a job within the department whenever Officer Cortez is ready to report for duty.

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