CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — A school bus driver in Catawba County has been arrested for driving while impaired Wednesday afternoon, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
At approximately 4:25 p.m., the school bus was pulled over after troopers received reports about careless and reckless driving on Catawba Burris Road in Lincoln County. The driver of the school bus, 54-year-old Nelson Gonzalez, was taken into custody at the scene.
Troopers said Gonzalez had a blood alcohol content of 0.23. It’s against North Carolina law to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
Gonzalez was driving school bus 411 for Sherrills Ford Elementary School. Investigators said he had just dropped students off, so no students were on board at the time of his arrest. However, Channel 9′s Ken Lemon learned there were 35 students on board before the arrest.
Troopers said Gonzalez has been charged with driving while impaired, commercial vehicle driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, and misdemeanor child abuse.
He was given a $2,000 bond following the arrest. The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office told Lemon he appeared before a magistrate Thursday, where he also faced 33 counts of misdemeanor child abuse. His bond for those charges has not been set.
Catawba County Schools shared a statement on the investigation, noting Gonzalez has been suspended without pay pending the investigation’s completion. They said he worked as a custodian and bus driver for Sherrills Ford Elementary School.
“The safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority, and we have zero tolerance for any conduct that compromises their safety,” the statement reads.
You can read the district’s full statement below:
“We can confirm that the bus driver was arrested and charged with driving while impaired. It is important to note that no children were on board at the time of the arrest, as all students had been safely delivered to their homes. Sheriff’s investigators are working to gather facts and evidence at this time. Multiple charges of child abuse are pending.
“The driver, Nelson Gonzalez, was employed by the district on November 13, 2023, as a 10-month custodian and bus driver for Sherrills Ford Elementary School.
“In response to this incident, our district has suspended the driver without pay, pending the completion of the investigation. The safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority, and we have zero tolerance for any conduct that compromises their safety.
“We understand the concern and distress this news may cause among parents, students, and the wider community. We assure you that we are taking every possible step to maintain a secure environment for our students.”
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