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Driver charged in crash near Bush

A woman whose car rammed into the side of an arena where President Bush had just delivered a speech was due to be arraigned as early as Monday on state assault charges, although no federal charges were expected, authorities said.

David Mitchell, spokesman for the DeSoto County sheriff’s department, said Betina Mixon was charged Sunday with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer.

Federal officials said Mixon, 29, of Horn Lake, had no intention of harming the president and no federal charges were pending against her. Authorities said they expect her to be arraigned on the state charges Monday or Tuesday.

Bush had just spoken Saturday at a campaign rally for Haley Barbour, the Republican nominee for governor, and was in his limousine preparing to leave the DeSoto County Civic Center when the crash occurred, a senior administration official said.

The president left the arena less than five minutes later from an exit about 40 yards from the crash. Three children were in the car Mixon crashed.

The Secret Service was reviewing how the car was able to drive past a police checkpoint and penetrate the security perimeter around the arena, agency spokeswoman Ann Roman said.

A friend of Mixon said she may have wanted to hurt herself. Alicia Graves, 19, who said she had known Mixon for about 10 years, said her friend had gone through a lot the last few months.

“With marriage, her dad just dying and her brother sick and all that, I think she had a nervous breakdown,” Graves said Sunday. Mixon, a nurse’s aide and the mother of three sons, also had a hysterectomy and “was having a lot of stomach problems,” Graves said.

The crash had nothing to do with politics, Graves said. “She’s not even registered to vote.”

Witnesses said they saw a gray Toyota Camry drive through a parking lot, jump the curb, drive through a gate where press buses had just left and ram the building near a loading dock.

Police rushed the car, dragged out the driver, handcuffed her and whisked her away.

Graves said authorities wouldn’t allow her to visit Mixon in jail.

“She don’t belong in jail,” Graves said. “She needs to be put somewhere where she can calm down and be by herself. She was just to the point that she couldn’t take it anymore.”

Graves said Mixon’s children were now staying with relatives.