(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of Commerce John Bryson is taking a medical leave of absence after a bizarre series of car accidents over the weekend in Los Angeles left him unconscious behind the wheel, and he was cited by police for leaving the scene of an accident — a felony offense.
Bryson has not been charged and he passed a breathalyzer Saturday night.
“I notified President Obama this evening that effective immediately I am taking a medical leave of absence so that I can focus all of my attention on resolving the health issues that arose over the weekend,” Bryson wrote in a memo to Deputy Secretary Dr. Rebecca Blank, who will take over for the time being.
A statement from the Commerce Department earlier Monday suggested that Bryson had some sort of seizure. He was treated overnight Saturday and released on Sunday.
By Monday evening he had stepped down from his post for a medical leave. It is not clear if the hiatus will be permanent.
“Secretary Bryson informed the White House tonight that he will be taking a medical leave of absence from his position as Commerce Secretary as he undergoes tests and evaluations,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement. “The President’s thoughts are with Secretary Bryson and his family during this time. Secretary Bryson assured the White House that the Commerce Department staff will not miss a beat in their work helping America’s businesses compete.”
Bryson was allegedly driving his Lexus traveling southbound on San Gabriel Boulevard at 5:05 p.m. Pacific Time when he rear-ended a Buick that had stopped and was waiting for a train to pass, authorities said.
Bryson got out of his car, spoke to the three males in the Buick, “then left the scene, hitting the same car as he left the scene,” read a joint statement from the San Gabriel Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “The three males followed him in their car while calling San Gabriel Police officers via 911 and asking for assistance.”
In yet another bizarre twist to the story, about five minutes later, Bryson allegedly hit a Honda Accord containing a man and woman in the city of Rosemead and “was found alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle.”
The law enforcement statement said that two of the three men in the Buick and one of the occupants of the Honda complained of pain as a result of the collisions. The men in the Buick were treated by paramedics. The statement said that the investigation was in its preliminary stages and “there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions.”
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Jackson Adams, Teton Valley News
Dylan Byers, CNN
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Azadeh Ansari and Angela Dewan, CNN