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Former Afghanistan ambassador charged with DUI

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 23, 2012, 3:50 p.m.

Ryan Crocker, the outgoing U. S. ambassador in Afghanistan, talks to the Associated Press on Thursday. (Associated Press)
Ryan Crocker, the outgoing U. S. ambassador in Afghanistan, talks to the Associated Press on Thursday. (Associated Press)

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has been charged with DUI and leaving the scene of a Spokane Valley accident.

The 63-year-old retired diplomat is accused of colliding with a semi-truck at a busy intersection on Aug. 14, then driving away as a witness tailed him, authorities said. No injuries were reported in the 2:05 p.m. collision.

Crocker, a native of Spokane Valley tapped by two presidential administrations for his Middle East expertise, is scheduled to appear for a pre-trial conference on Sept. 12 before Spokane County District Court Judge Sara Derr.

He retired from the U.S. State Department last month, citing health reasons, and left Kabul at a period of transition as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops from the long-standing war by the end of 2014. He also had served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq under President Bush, and had overseen reconstruction of the wartorn nation.

Last week, though, Crocker was in a 2009 convertible Ford Mustang traveling north on Pines Road, approaching the Sprague Avenue intersection. State Patrol Trooper Troy Briggs, a spokesman for the law enforcement agency, said Crocker was in the lefthand lane shortly after 2 p.m. with a semi-truck, which also was traveling northbound, off to his side in the righthand lane.

“Mr. Crocker decided he was going to turn eastbound onto Sprague and he turned directly into the path of the semi” causing a collision, Briggs said. “Mr. Crocker’s vehicle spun out. He fled the scene without stopping.”

A witness followed Crocker’s damaged Mustang until he stopped in the parking lot of the Washington Trust Bank located on Sullivan Road, about two miles away.

His car suffered damage to the passenger side and when the trooper arrived, the right front tire was flat, Briggs said.

The investigation revealed that Crocker’s blood alcohol content was .16 percent and a second test registered .152 percent, Briggs said. The legal limit for intoxication is .08.

“He was cited and released for DUI and hit and run,” Briggs said. The arrest occurred at 2:49 p.m.

A call to Crocker seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Crocker, who speaks Arabic, has served in some of the world’s most dangerous hotspots in a foreign service career spanning three decades.

He came out of retirement in 2011 at the request of President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to Afghanistan. He also has run embassies in Iraq, Pakistan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Syria.

In 1983, he was in Beirut when the U.S. Embassy there was bombed in an attack that killed 63 people. In 1998, a mob ransacked his residence in Syria while he served as ambassador there, and he was in Kabul when insurgents attacked the U.S. embassy there last year.

President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, for his service to the United States.

Crocker was named dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, a position he has been on leave from since returning to foreign service last year.