New Berlin — It’s not often you see anything but a Fudgsicle fly out the window of an ice cream truck, but when Denell Heller saw an unidentified object land in her front yard, she picked up the phone and called police. “I couldn’t tell what it was, but I am just a freak about littering,” she said. “I jumped off the couch and called the police. I told them I don’t want him in my neighborhood if he’s going to litter.”
The object, it turned out, was an empty can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, and the offending ice cream truck driver had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, according to a New Berlin police report. The driver, 43-year-old David A. Blundell of Milwaukee, also is a registered sex offender. He was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and littering and has a hearing scheduled for today in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
“What an idiot,” Heller said. “He’s like a beacon with all this sound, and he’s going to do that? I literally just called him on littering and he got busted on everything else.”
The New Berlin ice cream escapade began Thursday when Heller, a cook for the New Berlin school district, was sitting in her Andrae Drive home watching through the picture window as the family dog romped in the front yard. When the neighborhood ice cream truck came down the street, she turned to her husband, Jeffrey, and remarked that the ice cream truck could use a new song to replace its unforgettable “Pop Goes the Weasel” tune.
But then the can flew out of the truck’s window onto the Hellers’ front yard. While she was on the phone with New Berlin police, her husband returned with the litter. “I told the dispatcher, ‘If you send someone over, I’ll give you the can,’ ” Heller said.
Officer Gary Monreal tracked Blundell down a mile away on Deer Park Drive, where, according to a police report, Blundell told him that he had one beer with his breakfast around 11 a.m., about two hours before he went to work. Blundell then failed a series of sobriety tests, getting stuck at the letter M when reciting the alphabet, repeating the numbers nine and 10 when asked to count down from 15 and confusing his right and left when told to touch his nose with fingers on each hand, according to the police report.
New Berlin police will recommend that the district attorney’s office charge Blundell with drunken driving, a crime for which he was found guilty in 2001, New Berlin Lt. David Dunn said. For littering, Blundell will receive a municipal ticket.
Reached by phone at his home Monday, Blundell said he did not drink beer while he was driving the ice cream truck. “I’m driving and selling ice cream to kids, you know, and it’s like, dude gave me a beer and I dumped it out and I shot it on the ground,” he said. “Why I grabbed it I had no idea. That was just stupid. Then I realized, ‘I got to get rid of this, it’s not good.’ ”
Blundell said he didn’t know why the result of his Breathalyzer test was three times the level considered evidence of intoxication. “I told (the officer) there was something wrong with that machine,” he said. “He said there wasn’t.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Blundell was convicted in 1987 in Milwaukee County on a charge of second-degree sexual assault of an adult. In 1997, he registered with the state’s sex offender registry. Rodney Jensen, whose Jensen Vending company in Milwaukee owns the ice cream truck and employed Blundell, said he checks all potential employees’ criminal records on the Wisconsin online court record database, known as CCAP, but did not know Blundell was a registered sex offender before hiring him.
Blundell’s sexual assault conviction does not appear under his name on the criminal courts database, but it does show up under his name on the state’s online sex offender log. He had worked for Jensen Vending for only four days before his arrest. “If I would have seen something under his CCAP, I would have never put him in one of my trucks,” Jensen said. “This is what I do for a living, and I would never want anybody who is a sex offender.”
Thursday’s arrest for littering and drunken driving was not Blundell’s only brush with Waukesha County law enforcement last week. On June 7, he was given a $680 ticket for improperly selling ice cream in Brookfield, where he did not have a license to do so. “I got to pay it because the boss says it’s my fault,” Blundell said. “Dude gave me a ticket. Now I got a $680 ticket and no job.”
Blundell, whom Jensen said he has fired, had previously driven an ice cream truck for Capital Ice Cream Truck Inc. of Milwaukee, but he was fired in April, according to the office manager, Al Dara. “Every day he came here with something wrong,” Dara said.
As word about her littering complaint-turned-drunken driving arrest raced around her neighborhood, Heller has become something of a local hero. Neighbors, she said, have told her that they would never have called police to complain about littering. “I said, ‘It’s a good thing I’m anal,’ ” she said. “I told all the kids that I saved them all from the bad guy.”