Wild ride ends in arrest
By Lenny Roberts
A Meiners Oaks man took a wild
ride southbound on Highway 33 Friday afternoon that culminated
in a head-on collision in Oak View on North Ventura Avenue at
Santa Ana Boulevard.
According to law enforcement authorities, arrested at gunpoint
was Arthur Scott Varela, 37, after his vehicle flipped over and
he fled to the area of the First Baptist Church on Mahoney Avenue
where he ran in and out of a neighboring house.
Sources also indicated that the
suspect was carrying some sort of a knife at the time he was
"From what I understand," Sheriff's Sgt. Ken Edling
said, "after the traffic collision, he split. What alerted
us to the fact that he was at the church was that a homeowner
The incident began when Sheriff's Cadet Tony Vega received a
call from a Caltrans crew member that a Subaru had failed to
yield at a Caltrans stop on El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks.
Several calls were then received
by both California Highway Patrol and Sheriff's dispatchers stating
that a vehicle matching the description given by Caltrans was
southbound on Highway 33, and the occupant was driving recklessly,
often over the double-yellow line on the two-lane highway.
Several Sheriff's deputies began following Varela's path through
Mira Monte into Oak View, where, according to witnesses, he clipped
a northbound car driven by Jodi Brandt.
"If I would not have turned right as fast as I did, he would
have hit me," the Oak View resident said. She said got out
of her car and ran to the black BMW that Varela's car did strike,
and said that the "lady was in shock" immediately following
The driver of the BMW, Angela Macaluso Respo, and her passenger,
Lynn Boi, were transported to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital
by Lifeline paramedics and treated for their injuries.
Respo said she sustained injuries to her foot and hand, burns
to her face, arm and chest, and bruises on her chest, She also
said she received a concussion and there is fluid leaking from
her spine and brain.
She does not remember Brandt stopping to offer aid.
"All I remember is that there were a lot of children there
who witnessed the accident," she said, including Boi's two
high school children, who were coincidentally at the intersection
after getting off of a school bus.
"We were just saying how good her kids looked. Then, Lynn
said 'no, no,' and I saw the bottom of his car go over our windshield.
The next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital," Respo
CHP Officer Frank Paramo said Sheriff's deputies established
a perimeter around the area of the church before taking Varela
into custody. Another officer, Dave Songer drove the suspect
the short distance back to the scene of the collision where witnesses
identified his as the person who was driving the Subaru and the
person who fled the scene. From there, Varela was taken to the
Ojai Police Station where it was alleged that he was under the
influence of both a central nervous system stimulant - methamphetamine,
"Based on witness statements, his admission of driving the
vehicle and physical evidence, he was booked for being under
the influence of a controlled substance, driving under the influence,
felony hit and run, and felony reckless driving," Paramo
said, adding that "he said he had used meth earlier in the
Court records show that Varela was released on his own recognizance
Sunday at 3:30 a.m.
"It was very scary," Respo said. "I saw a light
and thought I was dead. I remember thinking I have to go home
to my kids.
I don't think this guy should
be out after this. I'm in a lot of pain because of this one guy
going out and doing drugs or whatever he did. He needs to do
some time and get some good counseling. In my whole life, I never
drank or did drugs, and look what happened to me."
Respo's husband, Jason, said, "I'm angry with the gentleman,
but just totally amazed that he was released O.R. with four felony
charges. Come on."
Brandt was equally upset with the judge's decision to release
"That makes me absolutely ill. How can someone almost kill
someone then break into somebody's house with a knife and get
out of jail?" she questioned.
Varela is scheduled to appear in court Friday for an 8:15 a.m.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
Arhtur Scott Varela is
taken into custody, after he was captured by officers following
an injury accident.