911 Call Shows Driver Followed Commerce Chief After Crash

A man who was in a car struck by a vehicle operated by then-U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson told an emergency operator he thought Bryson was intoxicated and followed the car, according to a tape of that call. Tests later showed Bryson was not drunk.

Bryson, 68, quit his cabinet position June 21, less than two weeks after being involved in the series of minor car accidents near Los Angeles. He was treated for a seizure after the accidents and said he resigned due to an unspecified medical condition.

“We have a drunk driver that hit us and fled,” the caller told the 911 operator, according to a recording released today.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to file charges against Bryson in connection with the accidents. Bryson passed a sobriety test at the scene, and blood tests later showed that he had no alcohol in his system but had taken Ambien, a sleeping drug, at the “low end of therapeutic levels,” according to the district attorney’s evaluation.

Investigators couldn’t say whether that was a factor in the collisions, and there was insufficient evidence to charge Bryson with driving under the influence, according to the evaluation.

The 911 caller described the events on June 9 in San Gabriel, California, after Bryson hit his car about 5 p.m. and proceeded down the street, striking a concrete divider and another vehicle. The driver of the first car then blocked Bryson’s car, and police arrived moments later, according to the recording.

Felt ‘Drowsy’

Bryson, wearing gray pants and a polo shirt, was found by police slumped in his Lexus, according to a San Gabriel Police Department report released today under a California Public Records Act request.

The Commerce Secretary said he had not taken any medication, though he felt “drowsy.” Asked why, he replied, “It’s mid afternoon,” and didn’t appear to be aware he had been involved in auto accidents, according to the report.

Taken to a hospital in Arcadia, he was checked in under the name “Camron Mendoza” by police who knew he was the Commerce Secretary and wanted to guard his privacy, according to the police report. The report does not explain why that name was selected.

Bryson told police he had attended an hour and a half Yoga class earlier that day and had not consumed any water, according to the report. He also suffers from low blood pressure, according to the report.

Bryson, the former chief executive officer of Edison International, said in his resignation letter to President Barack Obama that the seizure he suffered could be a distraction from his performance as head of the Commerce Department.

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