A Preston County grandfather is facing child neglect charges after state troopers witnessed him driving erratically with his grandchildren in the vehicle.
During an unrelated traffic stop on Wednesday, a driver alerted police that there was a tan SUV involved in a possible domestic dispute in the parking lot of the Kingwood Walmart, a criminal complaint said.
Troopers located the vehicle and saw the driver “swerving throughout the roadway and at one point almost over an embankment and into a house.”
The complaint said troopers were able to stop the SUV — which was “completely covered in thick mud throughout each section of the vehicle, including all windows” — on Maple Road in the Masontown area.
Inside the vehicle was Jose Antonio Harris, 55, of Masontown, as well as two juveniles, ages 11 and 14, who officers said were “acting in a scared and nervous behavior.”
One of the children told the troopers that Harris was their grandfather and he had taken them to Walmart for shopping, but shortly after began acting as he would if he had been drinking alcohol.
According to the complaint, the juvenile also told law enforcement that Harris “traveled out of the parking lot and into a field near W.Va. 7 before beginning to do donuts and driving erratic.”
The child said they became scared and tried to get out of the vehicle but Harris was able to get them back inside.
The other juvenile told officers their grandfather “almost struck both a telephone pole and guardrail” prior to contact with police, the complaint said.
Senior Trooper J.L. Anglin, who filed the complaint, said officers could smell alcohol on Harris and conducted three standardized field sobriety tests, each of which Harris failed.
On the scene, Anglin said Harris refused to take a breathalyzer test, but ultimately agreed once taken to the Preston County Sheriff’s Office for processing. According to the complaint, Harris showed a blood-alcohol content of .209. The legal limit for driving in West Virginia is .08.
Harris is charged with two counts of gross child neglect creating substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, and bond was set at $20,000.