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KCOY News Anchor Paula Lopez Arrested on Charges of DUI, Assaulting Officers

CHP links popular local TV personality to alleged wrong-way driving incident on Highway 101 west of Goleta

A California Highway Patrol officer prepares to take Paula Lopez Ochoa into custody Sunday night in Goleta. She is suspected of being a wrong-way driver on Highway 101, and was arrested on suspicion of DUI, and resisting and assaulting an officer.
A California Highway Patrol officer prepares to take Paula Lopez Ochoa into custody Sunday night in Goleta. She is suspected of being a wrong-way driver on Highway 101, and was arrested on suspicion of DUI, and resisting and assaulting an officer. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

A well-known local television news anchor was arrested in Goleta on Sunday night on charges of DUI and assaulting an officer after a wrong-way driving incident on Highway 101, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Paula Lopez Ochoa

Paula Lopez Ochoa, 50, of Santa Barbara, was taken into custody at about 9 p.m.

Lopez, who has worked for local station KEYT News for decades and currently anchors the news for sister station KCOY, was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, CHP Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said. 

He said Lopez also allegedly resisted arrest and assaulted a Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputy and a CHP officer, and was charged with those offenses.

The incident began at about 8 p.m. when the CHP received a report of a wrong-way driver on Highway 101 west of Goleta. Gutierrez said a silver Toyota Prius was reported traveling southbound in the northbound lanes in the area of El Capitán State Beach

CHP officers and sheriff’s deputies responded to the area and eventually located the car in the parking lot of Sandpiper Golf Course, 7925 Hollister Ave., near the freeway’s entrance ramp at Cathedral Oaks Road and east of Bacara Resort & Spa, Gutierrez said.

He said county firefighters and American Medical Response personnel, who had been called to the area about 9 p.m. on a report of a possible vehicle-versus-pedestrian traffic collision, were evaluating Lopez in the parking lot when officers arrived.

CHP officers determined that Lopez was the driver of the Toyota that had been traveling the wrong way on the freeway, and that she was under the influence of alcohol at the time, Gutierrez said.

Lopez was booked into the County Jail, with bail set at $5,000.

She remained in custody as of Monday morning, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover told Noozhawk.

Lopez later was released on her own recognizance, at 1:15 p.m., she said.

“She did not have to post bail but signed a promise to appear,” Hoover said in an email to Noozhawk. “I am not sure of the exact conditions of her OR.”

Mark Danielson, general manager of KEYT and KCOY, told Noozhawk he could not comment on Lopez's arrest.

“We’re aware of the incident, but are not going to make any comment on this matter,” he said.

Freelance photographer Zack Warburg, a frequent Noozhawk contributor, responded to the unfounded police scanner report of a pedestrian who had been struck by a vehicle.

Paula Lopez Ochoa is interviewed by firefighters and paramedics Sunday night in Goleta prior to her arrest on suspicion of DUI and resisting and assaulting police officers. Click to view larger
Paula Lopez Ochoa is interviewed by firefighters and paramedics Sunday night in Goleta prior to her arrest on suspicion of DUI and resisting and assaulting police officers. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

“Upon arriving, about halfway down the Bacara access road, I found multiple cars stopped in the road,” he said. “A female in a blue dress was stumbling down the roadway with two individuals attempting to stop her.”

Firefighters and paramedics arrived moments later and attempted to talk to the woman, “who proceeded to rapidly walk away from them,” he said.

She headed back up Hollister toward Sandpiper and crawled behind some bushes, Warburg said, adding that paramedics were able to coax her out and talk to her.

The CHP officers arrived a short time later, Warburg said, adding that he did not realize at the time that the woman was Lopez or that there was a connection to the wrong-way driving incident.

About 10 minutes later, Lopez was handcuffed and placed in the back of a CHP vehicle, he said.

Lopez, a mother of three and the wife of retired Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa, has spoken publicly about her ongoing battle with alcoholism, and said she was getting medical treatment after a public-intoxication arrest in July 2013 and a day-long disappearance earlier that year.

In the Feb. 27 disappearance, she eventually was found safe but not before her family and the Sheriff’s Department had mounted an intensive search in the area of her home in the Santa Barbara foothills just west of Highway 154.

“I have had substantial periods of abstinence and sobriety,” Lopez said in her statement at the time. “As can occur in the recovery process, I have also had failures and relapses.”

She was absent from the KEYT anchor desk for several months, but has since returned to the air.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). This article includes reporting from Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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