FARMINGTON — Even the locals are joining the fight against drinking and driving.

No charges will be filed against one man who hogtied a suspected drunken driver Sunday night, after several people witnessed the driver barely avoid several head-on collisions.

Justin Canuto, 22, was hogtied at the Red Mesa Express station on U.S. 550 after he voluntarily pulled into the parking lot, Sheriff's Sgt. Al Jamison said.

Canuto, minutes earlier, was seen driving southbound but in the northbound lanes of the highway, nearly missing several on-coming motorists.

Witnesses, at about 9:30 p.m., called 911 to report Canuto. When Canuto, who was driving a red passenger car, pulled into the lot, the witnesses followed him and confronted him. He became belligerent and attempted to flee on foot, at which point a 26-year-old man tackled Canuto and hogtied him to wait for deputies to arrive, Jamison said.

Canuto was charged with drunken driving and there was an open container in his car, Jamison said.

"They were all very adamant that they wanted something to happen," Jamison said of the witnesses.

"It sounded like we barely avoided another head-on collision," he said.

While deputies don't recommend tying up suspected drunken drivers, no charges were filed against the man who tied Canuto.

"I think they were trying to save lives and if you look at that intent, I'll stand behind them everyday," Sheriff Ken Christesen said.


Christesen recommends citizens get on the phone and call DrunkBusters or 911 if someone is driving that badly, he said.

As if to hammer the point that drunken drivers are rampant along the stretch of U.S. 550 between Bloomfield and Cuba, Canuto was arrested just hours after Navajo Nation, state and county officials met in Nageezi to discuss that very issue.

Six people have died on the rural four-lane stretch of road in a six-week period; including three fatalities Jan. 1 in two unrelated incidents.

The recent number of deaths prompted local law enforcement agencies, including the Sheriff's Office, state police and the Bloomfield Police Department to band together and vamp up patrols in the rural area.

ÊNavajo Nation officials also joined the fight on Jan. 8 when they passed a number of resolutions calling for a better law enforcement presence in the area.

ÊThose additional patrols are "absolutely" working, Christesen said.

Christesen reported that about 25 arrests have been made, which include drunken driving and other traffic violations, since the increased patrols.

He plans on meeting with state police officials today to continue to discuss and plan how best to serve the needs in that area.Ê