Saturday, November 25, 2017 Elyria 49°


OVI checkpoints’ aim is to put a face on victims


The day before Thanksgiving 2010, Tonya Vincent warned her brother, Andrew “A.J.” Vincent, and his friends to be careful of drunken drivers on the road.

“I’ve always known that the day before Thanksgiving is bad (for drinking and driving),” Tonya Vincent said, adding that her brother heeded her advice that night and stayed home.

However, three days later A.J. Vincent was killed by a drunken driver.

A Chevy Malibu driven by Mark Ralich slammed into the Ford Focus A.J. Vincent was driving at Brandston Avenue and Poplar Street in Elyria.

Tonya Vincent always knew drinking and driving don’t mix.

“Drinking and driving is like taking a gun and shooting it and seeing what happens,” she said, referring to a drunken driver’s inattention to victims.

In honor of a life lost, and as a way to keep others safe, the Elyria Police Department, the Elyria Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol and Lorain County Safe Community Coalition held two OVI checkpoints Friday night.

However, during the OVI checkpoints, each driver — impaired or not — who was stopped at the checkpoint was given a small reminder of what can happen if they drink and drive.

Motorists who were pulled over were given cards sharing A.J. Vincent’s personal information. Drivers learned that his favorite food was sub sandwiches and that his only tattoo was that of his niece’s name over his heart — “because she would always be his number one girl.”

Before the OVI checkpoints began, Elyria police and some of A.J. Vincent’s family members spoke at a press conference, explaining the reason behind honoring A.J. Vincent with the OVI checkpoints.

Elyria police Capt. Phil Hammonds said Friday night’s OVI checkpoints were a bit different than the typical countywide checkpoints because of the cards handed out honoring A.J. Vincent.

“People will look at this young man and (hopefully) the image stays with them,” Hammonds said.

Hammonds said that the goal of the checkpoints is to personalize the victims of drunk driving, like A.J. Vincent.

Debbie Botos, aunt of A.J. Vincent, shared with the public that the family hopes that people in the community will think twice about how their choices impact others.

“Drunk driving is not OK; it’s deadly,” Botos said.

Botos said A.J. Vincent’s family found a note he wrote to his mother before he died. The note described how much he loved his mother and how excited he was to study police science at Lorain County Community College.

“Something in all of us died that night,” Botos said of the night her nephew was killed. “Our family’s hope is that he did not die in vain and that just maybe these checkpoints can spare another precious life from being taken too soon.”

The OVI checkpoints were funded by a federal grant. The first checkpoint was set up at 6 p.m. Friday on Lake Avenue, near Lowell Street. The second checkpoint began at 9 p.m. on West Avenue, south of Lake Avenue.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or

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