Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has been charged with drunken driving and leaving the scene of a Spokane Valley accident.
The 63-year-old retired diplomat is accused of colliding with a semitruck 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 presidents from both sides of the political spectrum for his Middle East expertise, is scheduled to appear for a pretrial 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 the Afghanistan capital of Kabul at a period of transition as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops from the country by the end of 2014. He also had overseen reconstruction of war-torn Iraq.
Last week, though, Crocker was in a 2009 Ford Mustang convertible traveling north on Pines Road, approaching the Sprague Avenue intersection. State Patrol spokesman Trooper Troy Briggs said Crocker was driving in the left lane with a semitruck immediately to his right also traveling northbound on Pines when they both arrived at the intersection.
“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 a Washington Trust Bank branch along Sullivan Road, about two miles away.
His car sustained 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 0.16 percent – twice the legal limit – and a second test registered 0.152 percent, Briggs said. “He was cited and released for DUI and hit and run,” Briggs said. The arrest occurred at 2:49 p.m.
Several efforts to reach Crocker for comment were unsuccessful. Charging documents listed Spokane attorney Julie Twyford as his defense counsel, but she did not return a call late Thursday seeking comment.
Crocker, who speaks Arabic, has served in some of the world’s most dangerous hot spots as part of a celebrated 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 following his first retirement, a position he has been on leave from since last year.