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A bad decision in 1.8 seconds
Retired Sheriff Lt. Chris Stevens presented his concerns for the students in his own form of dramatics that ended in song while holding up a cell phone urging students to call 911 for help. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Lives are changed dramatically in every fatal drinking and driving crash.

It’s a point motivational speakers drove home at the Christian Worship Center Friday morning to some 400 high school seniors as part of the Every 15 Minutes program.

Teens learned what to expect if they make a bad 1.8 second decision in deciding to drink and drive was hammered home by Superior Court Judge Tony Agbayani, whose nine children attended every high school in Manteca.

“I am definitely not biased to any one school,” he quipped.

It was the second day of the annual Every 15 Minutes program where students witnessed a horrific crash on Thursday and saw their friends lay dying on the football stadium at Manteca High. After firefighters and medics stabilized the scene, classmates were whisked off in ambulances and a helicopter to waiting hospitals.

Agbayani spoke of his concerns and a near death experience with cancer just two weeks ago. He told students of his near miraculous survival from a similar 1.8-second decision wearing a white shirt and tie.  As he continued speaking at the lectern, a CHP officer brought him his business attire — a black judge’s robe.  He explained to the students from Manteca, East Union, Sierra, Calla and the academy that once they experienced E-15 and knew drinking and driving could end in someone’s death, they would be charged with manslaughter and could be in prison for 25 years if they killed someone.

“It’s all about making a bad decision in 1.8 seconds,” he said.  

Agbayani warned students not to come before him expecting any leniency. He noted DUIs can destroy families and cripple future expectations.

The memorial and the caskets were provided by P.L.Fry & Son Mortuary, with Charla Ortiz in charge of the three-hour event.

In addition to Judge Agbayani, Pastor Joey Macias, civil attorney Jennie Dennis, and retired Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Stevens were emphatic about their concerns for partying students who drink and drive.  The civil attorney said she usually gets a several million dollar judgment for the family of the deceased. 

“I will do everything in my power to see you pay for the rest of your lives,” she stressed.

The focus of the two days was the young Sierra senior who appeared in an orange jump suit, handcuffs and leg chains. She sat center stage with two officers — a sheriff’s deputy and a Manteca police officer — looking very humble and guilty.

Christina Arcos said she was chosen by School Resource Officer Shawn Cavin because of her positive background.  The officer wanted a student who wasn’t a partier.  She has also been an East Union cheerleader and good student.

She said being the DUI suspect made her feel some guilt in realizing that one little mistake can affect so many lives. One thing that troubled her when she was being arrested on the field was hearing a group of boys at the crash scene talking and laughing in the stands — not taking the event seriously.

Still fresh in her memory was the fatal crash of a car full of East Union students returning from a night in San Francisco. She said it really upset the students at her school as one died and one was paralyzed for life.

Stevens asked students to think smart and to love each other enough to take the keys of a friend who has been drinking to keep them from driving. “You love your friends?” he asked. “Enough to save their lives? Then take their keys or block their car with your cars so they can’t leave the party in their car.

“And young ladies, you know what to say to discourage your boy friend from driving.”

Stevens moved into a character change, donning sun glasses resembling a member of the Mafia and turning to song to make his point about the dangers of driving drunk. He also told of losing a brother to a drunk driver when he was just a boy.

Pastor Macias told of  “Jescy’s Story” and brought the girl to the stage to share an emotional story where after she had taken her first drink in 2012 and was found in the bathroom of her parents’ Powers Tract home.  Not used to alcohol, she passed out with her face going under water in the wash basin and aspirating it into her lungs.  A Manteca paramedic, Angela Ott, was credited for saving her life. The girl’s lengthy rehabilitation brought her back learning to walk and talk again.