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‘Elderly’ DUI suspect turns out to be 13-year-old boy on shopping mission

Warwick police officers James Wenneman and Christian Vargas expected they would be arresting an elderly DUI suspect at the Wal-Mart store on Post Road around 8:15 p.m. on Feb. 25. And none too soon, according to witnesses who said the old timer was swerving from curb to snow bank and back again as the Suzuki sedan with Maine license plates made its way from Providence to Warwick.

Dispatch gave a later tip that the car had pulled into the parking lot of the store, hit another car and then parked before the suspect climbed out and entered the store. The officers were told to keep an eye out for “an elderly white male wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, gray hair, sneakers and glasses.” Vargas found the car and reported it had scratches and scuffs and minor damage to the bumper.

Officer Vargas said he and two other officers were looking for the suspect when a man who fit that description came out of the store, but he got into another car and ably piloted it way from the store. Vargas said he and Wenneman were standing by their cruisers when a small boy walked up and asked him why they were parked beside his mother’s car, referring to the Suzuki with the Maine plates.

He said they were talking with the boy when it slowly dawned on them that witnesses had mistaken this 13-year-old boy for an elderly and impaired driver. At first he denied having driven the car but eventually confessed that he snuck out of his house and “borrowed” his mother’s car to drive to Wal-Mart and buy an iPad Touch. He showed them the keys to the car. Vargas said they contacted Providence police and were eventually put in touch with the boy’s mother. She came to headquarters to retrieve her boy and was told that she would have to deal with juvenile services about the charge of driving without first obtaining a license her son was facing. No word about how he made out with the iPad.


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