In January 2010, a young man from Jacksonville, Florida climbed into his car after a night of drinking and started driving down the Florida 9A. His blood alcohol content (BAC) was at 0.158 - almost double the legal amount in Florida. He was too drunk to realize that he was driving on the wrong side of the road, which subsequently led him to collide with a patrol car. Deputy James Anderson Jr., who was behind the wheel, succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. He was a 44-year-old former Marine and a loving father of four.
The drunk driver, Kris Caudilla, pleaded guilty to one count of DUI manslaughter in August 2010. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his crime. One moment, Caudilla was a regular young man, out having drinks with friends. He had been going through a breakup with his girlfriend and nursing the pain with alcohol. The next moment, he was serving a 15-year sentence for a crime that he could have prevented.
Although he was remorseful, there was nothing that could repair the damage he had done while drunk. "My husband is never coming home,” Deputy Anderon's wife, Regina, said through tears in her testimony. “He will never hug his kids again. We will never be able to say 'We love you' again. I miss him so much."
"The defendant not only took away my best friend, but, more importantly, he took an honorable man away from his family and his children," Deputy Thomas Evans, Anderon’s former partner, added.
Anderson's sister-in-law, Shirley Warford, asked the judge to give Caudilla the maximum sentence. "We are lost trying to pick up the pieces of our lives," she said. "[The maximum sentence] won't bring James back, but it will at least keep Mr. Caudilla ... from killing another innocent person."
Now, Caudilla is helping to spread the message about the devastating effects that impaired driving has on others and on yourself.
Many young people feel invincible and immune to consequences. They often have the mindset that bad things can never happen to them, which has led to many irresponsible and regrettable behaviors. Driving drunk is one of the most common ones.
This is Kris Caudilla now, the young man who is serving 15 years behind bars for DUI manslaughter. You may be wondering why a photo of him is framed above a public washroom sink.
It is, in fact, not a photo. It is a video that was filmed from the RMC Correctional Facility in Lake Butler, Florida.
While patrons of this establishment are out drinking and having fun, Caudilla takes the opportunity to give them a sobering message during a brief moment of quiet when they are in the washroom.
Though many of the viewers are tipsy or drunk, they are nonetheless shocked by this odd scenario. Captivated by curiosity, Caudilla tells them his story.
"One night, I was drinking out with friends," he recounts to them. "Got in a car and drove and killed somebody."
"I made the choice to drink, I made the choice to get in the car. You don't have to make that choice."
Although the messages are pre-recorded, they were scripted to look like he was speaking to the recipient in real time. This effort is part of the We Save Lives: Reflections From Inside campaign.
After hearing Caudilla's story, bar patrons should think twice about getting behind the wheel while impaired. There's nothing quite like seeing and talking to someone whose path you could follow if you choose to drink and drive.
There are many alternatives to get you home safe after a night out drinking. Arrange a ride from a family member or friend who hasn't been drinking, assign a designated driver, call a taxi ... just stay home, if you have no other option.
There is no excuse to drink and drive.
Don't forget to SHARE this sobering message with your friends and family.