Videos released by a law firm Tuesday shows an allegedly intoxicated Los Angeles County coroner’s employee maneuvering dangerously on the 14 Freeway in rural Kern County, then struggling with the officer who arrested her in 2016.
Julie Kellerman, 45, of Palmdale, was driving a coroner’s van filled with alcohol bottles — including a half-empty bottle of wine in the center console — on the freeway’s northbound lanes, according to a California Highway Patrol arrest report provided by attorney Luis Carrillo.
Kellerman told CHP she was headed from Palmdale to Ridgecrest when when the 2008 Ford E-350 was pulled over just south of Athel Avenue, about 10 miles west of Ridgecrest, shortly before 2 p.m. June 1. It’s unclear why she was so far north of L.A. County in a government vehicle.
Investigators later determined Kellerman’s driver’s license had expired two days before.
Carrillo provided the report and videos — which include CHP dashcam as well as witness cellphone video — in connection with a suit in which his firm is representing the family of Jorge Hernandez, a man who was mistakenly cremated by the L.A. County coroner’s office.
Carrillo is arguing that staffing deficiencies at the agency after Kellerman was placed on leave contributed to the mistake.
Kellerman’s driving was first reported to CHP by two people in another car behind her, who stated she was weaving all over the roadway and nearly collided with several vehicles. In cellphone video recorded by that car’s passenger, the witnesses can be heard fearing for their safety.
“Someone needs to call 911,” the passenger states. “She almost just got into three wrecks.”
The 30-second clip shows a big rig swerving onto the shoulder to avoid running head-on into the coroner’s van, which had entered the southbound lanes to pass another truck.
In his arrest report, the officer who responded says he also saw the government vehicle zigzagging “all over the roadway” before he pulled it over.
Upon speaking with Kellerman, the official noted her eyes were bloodshot and watery, her speech was slurred, she reeked of alcohol and she was unsteady even while sitting in the van.
A search of the van turned up a full bottle of liquor and two cases of Sutter Home wine bottles that had been bought earlier that morning, with the receipt still in the bag, according to the CHP report.
The wine cases each held four bottles, but one of the cases was empty. One empty bottle of wine was found in Kellerman’s purse, while the bottle in the center console was missing its cap and within reach of the driver’s seat, officials said.
A breathalyzer test showed her blood-alcohol concentration at about 0.25%. The officer determined Kellerman was so intoxicated as to be a danger to herself and others and detained her.
The officer states that Kellerman refused to comply with his orders and kept trying to use her cellphone during sobriety testing. The dashcam video shows he had to force her to the ground before being able to handcuff her.
A felony complaint charged Kellerman with one count each of DUI with alcohol greater than .15%, DUI with alcohol greater than .08% and resisting arrest. Kern County prosecutors could not be reached for comment on whether she was convicted.