Sunday, March 3, 2019
A driver suspected of killing two people and injuring seven others, most of them on bikes, as large crowds gathered in New Orleans for Mardi Gras told police after the deadly crash, “I have a drinking problem,” according to a police report.
New Orleans police said Tashonty Toney, 32, was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and other charges after crashing his car Saturday evening on a busy thoroughfare near the route of one of New Orleans’ largest Mardi Gras parades.
Police spokesman Andy Cunningham said in a statement Sunday morning that authorities are waiting for the results of a blood alcohol test, but they believe the suspect was impaired. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune reported a police incident report said Toney refused to take a field sobriety test and told officers he had struggled with alcohol.
“I have a drinking problem,” the police report quoted Toney as saying. “I should have gotten help, I’m going to jail for a DWI.”
Toney’s bond was set at $510,000 by a magistrate commissioner Sunday. Toney did not speak during the hearing and was represented by a public defender, the newspaper said. The public defender’s office in New Orleans did not immediately return a phone message Sunday from The Associated Press.
Cunningham said Toney was the son of a New Orleans police officer and promised the department’s investigation will be “open and transparent.” Saturday was Toney’s birthday, the news release said.
In addition to vehicular homicide, Toney was charged with seven counts of vehicular negligent injury, hit and run, and reckless operation, the police news release said.
The crash happened along a multiple-block stretch of Esplanade Avenue, a leafy street that connects the city’s biggest park with the French Quarter. The scene was close to the route of the Endymion parade, one of New Orleans’ largest Mardi Gras parades, that was held Saturday.
New Orleans Police Chief Shaun Ferguson told a news conference late Saturday that despite the crash’s proximity to the parade route, “we do not believe at this point in time that this has anything to do with the Endymion parade.”
Police said most of the victims were bicyclists, and photographs of the scene showed mangled bikes along the side of the street.