California mayor at center of immigration debate charged with DUI

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 31, 2014 2:30 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Southern California mayor who made headlines leading a local backlash against a flood of Central American immigrants across the U.S. border, has been charged with felony drunk driving in connection with an accident that injured four teenage girls.

Alan Long, who resigned as mayor of Murrieta, California last week, days after his arrest, was formally charged on Thursday with one count of driving while under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, Riverside County prosecutors said.

Long, 44, who is free on $50,000 bond, is scheduled for an arraignment on Dec. 11 in Murrieta, a community of some 100,000 people some 60 miles (97 km) north of San Diego. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

The former city official was taken into custody on Oct. 16 after police said his pickup truck struck a car carrying four Murrieta Valley High School students, all girls aged 14 to 17, who suffered moderate to major injuries in the crash.

Authorities say his blood alcohol content registered .08, the legal limit at which one is considered to be under the influence according to California law.

Long, who has served as a battalion chief with the Anaheim Fire Department, was elected by voters in Murrieta in November 2010. The city website says he also volunteers as a Sunday school teacher, athletic coach and crisis counselor for at-risk youth.

He came to national prominence in June and July when he led a public outcry over U.S. plans for hundreds of Central American children and adults caught illegally crossing from Mexico into Texas to be transferred to a U.S. Border Patrol office in Murrieta for processing.

After the city's website posted messages decrying the transfer plan, along with the Border Patrol station's address, a group of angry protesters showed up to block the arrival of buses carrying the undocumented minors to the facility, forcing the caravan to turn around.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at the time he found TV images of the demonstration "very disturbing."

Long, who was not present at the protest, later defended his actions, saying the city had legitimate concerns about public health and safety.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Alan Crosby)