SPLENDORA – Around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Chief Deputy Barry Welch and Sgt. Buck Clendennen with the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office were enjoying at a child’s birthday party in a Splendora neighborhood when they were suddenly reminded a peace officer is never truly off-duty.
Chief Welch said at the time of the incident, they were sitting in the Splendora mayor’s front yard on a street where other council members and law enforcement have homes, along with elderly residents and many families who have children.
Their peaceful celebration was disrupted when a green Ford Windstar blew past at speeds estimated in excess of 80 miles per hour. The driver was 45-year-old John Lee Babjack, a registered sex offender who lives on the street and lists his occupation as “disabled.” Babjack soon returned, apparently having gone to the convenience store at the end of the street. Chief Welch said he was again driving at an extremely high rate of speed, despite the possible danger to pedestrians or himself.
“This is a street where adults and children walk dogs or ride bikes to the (gas station / store) and some elderly residents use motorized scooters,” Chief Welch said. “The suspect showed total disregard for the safety of others or himself.”
Upon his high-speed return, Babjack pulled his emergency brake, causing the back tires to smoke and making the vehicle difficult to control. He narrowly missed several mailboxes as multiple witnesses including the Chief and Sgt. Clendennen watched. Chief Welch said many neighbors provided witness statements, with several remarking that Babjack is frequently walking around with a beer in his hand, appearing intoxicated and shouting obscenities at them.
The Chief and Sergeant jumped into Clendennen’s patrol car and followed Babjack who turned into his residence and stepped out of his vehicle drinking a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. The Chief and Sergeant were soon joined by one Splendora Police unit, 2 Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office units, and Deputy Chris Turrentine with the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office.
Babjack had begun to act belligerent, but was taken into custody without incident. He failed the Standard Field Sobriety Test and refused to cooperate with a Breathalyzer test. Unfortunately for Babjack, it is “no refusal” month in Montgomery County, so his blood was drawn and he was booked into the Montgomery County Jail for Driving While Intoxicated.
Chief Welch said the arrest should reminded drunk drivers that they are always being watched and may be caught.
“We had a duty to act,” Chief Welch said. “Drunk driving is a violent crime because driving a car at a high rate of speed is wielding a deadly weapon.”
“Thankfully, he didn’t hit anyone – this story could have ended very differently,” Chief Welch said.
Pct. 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden said he was very proud of his officers’ handling of the situation.
“They saw someone breaking the law and endangering others and without hesitation, they interrupted their personal lives and took action,” Constable Hayden said. “It shows their dedication to their jobs and their community.”
Deputy Turrentine arrested and transported Babjack to the Montgomery County Jail in Conroe. Babjack’s bond is set at $1,000.