Former Del Norte County District Attorney Mike Riese was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs Thursday outside a Crescent City liquor store.
Officers lead Riese to a patrol car after taking him into custody Thursday. Del Norte Triplicate/Anthony Skeens
Authorities were alerted by an anonymous caller who was following Riese’s truck and described it as being driven erratically around 5 p.m., said California Highway Patrol Lt. David Petersen.
“Then there were more calls,” said Petersen. “We’re still compiling names and numbers of reporting parties.”
“Apparently, several people witnessed this.”
Nick Sandoval, an employee of the liquor store, said he also called authorities after escorting Riese out of the business due to odd behavior.
Riese walked into the store and purchased a popsicle, then began asking about wine, Sandoval said.
Sandoval said that after he handed Riese his change, his body began tensing in what appeared to be spasmodic movements before he strolled through the store for several minutes looking at beer, wine and liquor.
“He was acting all weird asking about non-concentrated juice,” said Sandoval.
At one point, Riese had a wine bottle in his hand and was speaking in German, Sandoval said.
Eventually, Sandoval told Riese he had to leave and escorted him out of the business and then called authorities.
Officers from the Crescent City Police Department contacted Riese in the parking lot outside Y Liquors, where his truck was located, about eight minutes after the anonymous call was made, Petersen said.
A request was made to the sheriff’s dispatch center for CHP to take over the investigation to determine if Riese was driving under the influence, Petersen said.
“We dispatched a drug recognition expert to that location,” said Petersen. “Our officer conducted a field sobriety test, which (Riese) failed to perform the test as explained and demonstrated.”
For a majority of the time that two CHP officers and a CCPD officer were interviewing Riese, he was sitting on the tail end of his blue Toyota Tundra.
After conducting a few exercises of the field sobriety test around 5:40 p.m., the officers handcuffed Riese and placed him in the front passenger seat of a CHP vehicle.
He was eventually transported to the local CHP office off Parkway Drive, where a more extensive drug evaluation was performed, Petersen said.
“It would be the same for everyone,” said Petersen. “We take them to a controlled environment; it’s to fairly evaluate them.”
Riese was cooperative with authorities and also submitted to a blood test, Petersen said.
After Riese was taken away, two officers stayed in the parking lot and searched Riese’s truck, but did not appear to remove anything. The truck was left in the parking lot with its headlights on.
Riese was booked into the Del Norte County Jail around 6 p.m. and later released, authorities said.
“I wasn’t driving under the influence at any time,” said Riese on Friday. “From my perspective, I passed every single test they gave me.”
“I was rearranging stuff in my truck and I get contacted,” said Riese. “I’m not being treated like any average person.”
He said he has been contacted by authorities nine times since August.
Riese said Thursday’s arrest was similar to an incident at Safeway last August.
Safeway employees had called the police at the time after he displayed what they considered to be odd behavior.
He was detained by officers before being let go during that incident. Charges, including driving under the influence and child endangerment, were brought against him by the state Attorney General’s Office about two months later.
After a five-day trial, he was acquitted of all the charges.
Riese has another trial scheduled Sept. 5 in Curry County, where he is charged with two counts of tampering with drug records and two of second-degree forgery, stemming from two incidents in December when Riese allegedly used forged prescriptions to purchase a controlled substance.
Riese brushed off the notion he was behaving bizarrely in the liquor store Thursday.
“I thought it was a jovial conversation,” said Riese. “I didn’t think there was any issue.”
He was the county’s district attorney for two terms before being voted out in the June 2010 primary.