After hitting a traffic signal and a tree while coming home from a friend’s birthday party, Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete received municipal citations Friday night for both operating while intoxicated and hit and run.

The accident was reported to dispatch at 10:04 p.m. at the intersection of Melvin and Main Streets in the City of Racine as a vehicle vs. traffic pole, according to a press release from the Racine Police Department. A tree was also struck.

When officers arrived, they found a 2004 Volkswagon but not the driver. Police determined the driver was Chiapete, so they went to his home where they placed him under arrest for first offense OWI and cited him for “duty upon striking property, also referred to as hit & run on/or adjacent to highway,” the release continues.

Chiapete released a statement Saturday morning apologizing for the incident.

“I exercised extremely poor judgment on many levels. I did receive municipal citations for OWI and Hit & Run,” the statement reads, “I take full responsibility for my actions. I am ashamed and embarrassed.”

Racine Police Chief Art Howell confirmed the citations were issued.

“We did issue citations to (Mr. Chiapete) following a property damage accident,” Howell wrote to Racine County Eye in an email.

In the statement, Howell assured citizens that his officers followed proper procedure in the investigation of the incident and the decision to issue municipal citations.

“On those occasions when it becomes necessary to conduct investigations involving public officials, members of the law enforcement community or other high-profile incidents, the integrity of the law enforcement profession is rightfully under public review,” he said. “I would like to take this opportunity to ensure members of the public that this investigation was handled in a manner consistent with similar investigations, that being with professionalism and impartiality.”

This is Chiapete’s first offense for both the OWI and the hit and run charges. Howell explained that when an accident does not involve other parties and does not result in any injuries, officers are given the discretion to issue citations instead of elevating the charges to a state level.

“Along with oversight review from an external law enforcement agency, I will continue to monitor the facts involved in this case to affirm that the highest standards of professional police conduct were applied during this investiagtion,” Howell’s statement concludes.

RPD Sgt. Jessie Metoyer said the chief plans to reach out to agencies on Monday about the review.

Here is Chiapete’s statement in full:

I wanted to contact you with this information immediately. I did not want you to hear it from some other source. Last evening, I was involved in a single car accident near my house. I was coming home from a birthday party and had a few drinks. I did initially panic and leave the scene. I exercised extremely poor judgment on many levels. I did receive municipal citations for OWI and Hit & Run. I take full responsibility for my actions. I am ashamed and embarrassed. I apologize to my family, to the law enforcement community and to all of the citizens in our community. This should not have happened and I pledge to work hard to restore your faith in me.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

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