Police: Driver had BAC of .22 when he struck, killed Md. officer

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The man accused in the death of a Montgomery County police officer has been ordered held on a $250,000 cash bond.

Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 47, appeared via closed circuit television for his bond review hearing in Rockville. On Thursday, he was indicted on two charges: vehicular manslaughter and failure to move over or slow down as he approached an emergency vehicle.

Prosecutors argued Reluzco, who works as a bartender and server at an area country club, should be ordered held without bond. Reluzco is accused of driving drunk when he hit 24-year-old Officer Noah Leotta on Dec. 3.

Leotta, who was working as a member of the department’s holiday alcohol task force that night, died one week later.

Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Bryan Roslund told Judge Robert Greenberg that Reluzco had blown a .22 after striking Leotta, and that he admitted to drinking that afternoon.

Police say Reluzco was drinking beer and taking shots of bourbon at Hooters on Rockville Pike for about three hours.

Along with alcohol, police say traces of Xanax were found in his system. Police also say he admitted to smoking marijuana that morning.

During a series of field sobriety tests, Roslund says Reluzco told the officer, “I choose not to do that because I had too much to drink.”

Asked to stand during one field sobriety exercise, Roslund said Reluzco told the officers, “I can’t do. My balance won’t let me … probably because I drank too much.”

Noting two prior arrests for drunk driving, Roslund asked the judge to hold Reluzco without bond.

Reluzco’s attorney John Roth argued that his client was “totally remorseful” and that he was not a flight risk. Pointing to members of Reluzco’s family, including his wife and mother, Roth said Reluzco had deep ties in the community, and that he would willingly surrender his passport.

The judge noted “it’s a rare case indeed” where a defendant in a vehicular case is held without bond, but noting the seriousness of the charge, he said he wouldn’t ignore the circumstances of the case.

He then ordered Reluzco held on a $250,000 cash bond and laid down a number of conditions including: he would have to surrender his passport, agree to monitoring, be barred from driving for any reason, refrain from all nonprescription drugs and he could not serve alcohol at his job.

After the hearing, Roth told reporters that Reluzco was filled with remorse.

“I believe you all could see it in his face today during the bond hearing,” Roth said.

When asked about the evidence in the case, Roth said “it is what it is” but would not say whether he would enter a guilty plea on behalf of his client. He said he wants to see all the evidence in the case first.

Leotta’s family, including his sister Shana, spoke at a news conference.

“Now I’m technically an only child. I have to see my parents to through this every single day and it’s painful for me to watch,” she said, wearing her brother’s police badge around her neck.

Noah’s father, Rich, who appeared in Annapolis to push for tougher drunk driving laws was at times soft-spoken, tearful and angry. He told reporters he didn’t sleep a wink the night before the hearing, and that he recently took Noah’s dog to his son’s grave.

“That’s where I have to talk to my son — my wonderful son who was only 24 years old. I have to go to a cemetery to talk with him,” he said.

Leotta said he just didn’t buy that Reluzco was remorseful, and he railed against the notion that expanding the use of interlock devices should be reserved for repeat or “hard core” drunk drivers.

“You’re over the limit? You’re drunk! You don’t drive drunk! That puts everybody at risk. My son is dead because of that,” Leotta said.

He also wore a badge with his son’s number on it, held it up and said “Noah, I love you, I miss you and I’m gonna fight for you and every other victim of drunk driving for the rest of my life!”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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