Eustis Police Chief Finds Man Suspected of DUI in Grocery Store Parking Lot with Bottle of Vodka Next to Him

EUSTIS, Florida—A man who was apparently stumbling and staggering around a local grocery store and parking lot was busted for DUI Sunday after Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri found him sitting in his car with a bottle of vodka lying next to him.

Capri was in the area Sunday around 8:15 p.m. when he heard a call go out about a possible drunk person stumbling around and trying to leave in a white Dodge Challenger in the Woodland Center plaza, 1930 North State Road 19, which houses Publix, according to an arrest affidavit.

Capri spoke only with Inside Lake about the incident, “Crime doesn’t take a day off, so why should we?’

Capri approached the vehicle and spoke with a man, later identified as Joseph Ciechanowski, 52, who smelled of alcohol. Capri, who was in plain clothes, identified himself as a police officer, and Ciechanowski said Capri was not a police officer and attempted to leave, Capri told Inside Lake.

Capri kept Ciechanowski from leaving until two more EPD officers arrived and when the officers asked for his driver license and registration, he fumbled around while slurring his words, the affidavit states.

Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri

“He was extremely intoxicated; no doubt in my mind he would have killed somebody, or himself,” Capri said.

He refused to exit his car and when EPD opened the door he stumbled out and refused to perform field sobriety exercises. Ciechanowski, of Parrish in Manatee County, was placed under arrest and taken into custody.

Officers spoke with a witness, a manager at Publix, who said Ciechanowski staggered into the men’s restroom at the front of the store and staggered out a short time later. She provided a written statement to officers and Ciechanowski was transported to the Lake County Jail. While at the jail, he refused to provide a breath sample, according to the affidavit.

A check of Ciechanowski’s criminal history revealed a prior arrest for DUI in December 2020 that was eventually pled down to reckless driving, alcohol related on May 21, 2021—exactly two years prior to the incident in Eustis, according to Manatee County Clerk of Court online records.

Ciechanowski is facing three charges in Lake County, including DUI, refusal to submit to a breath test and refusal to sign a criminal citation. He was released Monday morning on $2,000 bond.

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