MILWAUKEE -- Juan Alvarado pleaded no contest in a brief court appearance Wednesday, May 30th, to charges of first-degree reckless injury and first-degree reckless endangerment. This, in connection with the hit-and-run crash that critically wounded a Milwaukee police officer.
Alvarado struck Officer Frank Vrtochnick with his car on Christmas night 2011 near 17th and Windlake Ave on Milwaukee's south side.
Vrtochnick was apparently standing on the grass when the approaching vehicle struck him from behind. Vrtochnick was thrown into the air, flipped around and landed face first 30 to 40 feet away, near a street sign. Officials say Alvarado then fled the scene. He was later arrested in Chicago.
Alvarado appeared before a judge Wednesday with his attorney and translator at his side.
In pleading no contest, Alvarado admitted to the court he drove the wrong way down a southside street and struck Officer Vrtochnick. Alvarado told officers after his arrest he was on a two-day drinking binge before the accident.
The spokesperson for the police union is out of town -- and cannot comment on the case. Milwaukee police officials say they won't comment until after Alvarado's sentencing.
Officer Vrtochnick spoke with FOX6 News a few weeks back, after he received a purple star for what happened on Christmas night.
"Rehabilitating to the best of my ability to get back to the department," Vrtochnick said.
In his first comments to the media since the accident, Vrtochnick - the still injured former U.S. Army Ranger could not talk about the case against Alvarado, but he thanked his loved ones and extended police family.
"All the support they've shown since the event and up to this point - it's unbelievable," Vrtochnick said.
Alvarado will be sentenced on Friday, June 29th. He faces up to 40 years in prison.