U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson, who was cited for felony hit-and-run following a series of car crashes Saturday evening in the span of five minutes in the San Gabriel and Rosemead areas, had suffered a seizure, according to a Commerce Department spokesperson.
Bryson, 68, was treated at a hospital for injuries following the crashes at about 5 p.m. the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department and the San Gabriel Police Department said in a joint statement.
"Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident in Los Angeles over the weekend," Jennifer Friedman, director of public affairs for the Commerce Department, said in a statement. "He suffered a seizure. He was taken to the hospital for examination and remained overnight for observation. He was released and has returned to Washington. The investigation is ongoing."
Bryson was cited for felony hit-and-run, San Gabriel Police spokesman Lt. Ariel Duran said. The secretary was driving alone in a Lexus on San Gabriel Boulevard when he allegedly struck the rear end of a vehicle stopped for a passing train.
He then pulled in front of the vehicle at the train crossing and parked, the vehicle's occupants told investigators. He spoke briefly with the occupants, who told investigators Bryson was traveling at about 15 to 20 mph, according to authorities.
"He then got back in, threw it in reverse and hit the car again," said Deputy Tony Moore.
The driver and his two passengers followed Bryson and called 911, Moore said.
"We did cite him for felony hit-and-run," Duran said. "Later the case (will be) submitted to the DA's office which will make a determination on what they are going to charge him with."
Bryson then allegedly caused another collision minutes later, also on San Gabriel Boulevard, in the nearby city of Rosemead, striking a car occupied by a man and a woman, the police agencies said.
Bryson was found alone and unconscious in his car and was treated at the scene before being taken to a hospital.
There was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions, the agencies said. Authorities said Bryson submitted to a Breathalyzer test and blood test at the hospital.
Authorities don't know whether Bryon had a prior medical condition, Duran said.
"When the first officer rolled up on the scene, he was behind his wheel unconscious," Duran said. "But our officer did speak with him at the hospital."
David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Obama, said on CBS's "This Morning" that he doesn't have any details.
"This news broke overnight so I don't have anything to contribute to that. Obviously it's concerning, but I'm not going to comment because I don't know any of the details," he said.
Sheriff's deputy Tony Moore declined to provide any other information, including the name of the hospital.
Two people in the first collision were treated by paramedics after complaining of pain, the officials said. The couple involved in the second crash also complained of pain but declined medical aid.
Damage to the vehicles was minor.
San Gabriel is located just northeast of Los Angeles.
Obama swore in the former utility executive as the head the Commerce Department in October, after easily overcoming conservatives' objections that his pro-environmental views made him unsuited for the job.
As secretary, Bryson has played a role as a member of the president's economic team and has worked to promote job creation. He has also advised on energy issues, particularly in the clean energy sector.
Bryson is the former head of Edison International, the holding company that owns Southern California Edison. Bryson has also served on boards of major corporations including the Boeing Co. and the Walt Disney Co.
He helped oversee Edison's transformation into a leading wind and solar company and launched a plan to turn 65 million square feet of unused commercial rooftops into solar power stations with enough electricity for more than 160,000 homes.