An 83-year-old Palm Desert man who crashed his car into a fence at an elementary school, sending debris flying that struck a 10-year-old boy who later had to have his leg amputated, appeared in court Wednesday and is free on his own recognizance.
Malcolm Ross Paterson was charged last month with one count of driving under the influence causing injury, along with a sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegation, stemming from the Oct. 23 crash that injured Lincoln Elementary School student Adrian Grajeda.
Paterson's arraignment was postponed from Wednesday to June 25 so he could look for an attorney, Riverside County District Attorney's Office Public Information Officer John Hall said.
A warrant for Paterson was recalled Wednesday because he appeared in court, according to court records. Hall said Paterson was free on his own recognizance, which prosecutors didn't oppose after consulting with Adrian's family. The conditions of Paterson's release are that he can't drive, drink alcohol or go to bars or liquor stores, and that he must submit to chemical tests as requested by law enforcement, Hall said.
Paterson was driving a Chevrolet Cruze south on Portola Avenue, approaching a red light at Magnesia Falls Drive about 9:50 a.m. on Oct. 23, when he "mistakenly pressed the accelerator rather than the brake pedal when approaching traffic stopped at an intersection," then "pressed harder on the accelerator without realizing his mistake," according to a sheriff's official and a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant.
Paterson's car collided with another vehicle, veered onto a sidewalk, crashed into a traffic signal and finally the steel perimeter fence of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School on Rutledge Way in Palm Desert.
Debris from the crash struck Adrian who was airlifted to a hospital and had to have his left leg amputated, according to the declaration.
Other students were outside at the time, but no one else was hurt. Paterson stayed at the scene, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's department.
A blood test showed Paterson's blood alcohol level was .04, below the legal limit of .08, according to the declaration, which was prepared by sheriff's Deputy John Cleary.
"Paterson's actions throughout the events of the collision, combined with his measured BAC, led me to believe that alcohol contributed to a mental impairment, making him unable to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner," Cleary wrote.
Paterson told The Desert Sun that he had two glasses of wine the night before the crash, and that the car -- which he bought the day before the crash - - malfunctioned.
In April, Adrian's mother sued Paterson for negligence, alleging that he knew or should have known that he was "unfit and/or incompetent to operate the subject vehicle given he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident." The suit asks for unspecified damages.
– City News Service.