Montgomery County workers repaired a fence outside a police station in Germantown. A man was charged with drunk driving after he crashed into the fence, according to police. (Dan Morse/The Washington Post)

At the time, it must have seemed like a logical route to the Taco Bell. Head west down a little hill. Hang a left at the bank of trees and go one block. Burritos, nachos, maybe one of those new Cantina Bowls. They’d be his.

But things didn’t turn out so well for Kevin N. Osburnsen, according to a Montgomery County police account. First there was the hill. It was actually in a parking lot outside a police station. Then there was the gate he crashed into, the front license plate he left behind, and the wallet found outside his Ford Explorer when officers tracked him down at his house.

“We’re certainly lucky no one was hurt,” said Capt. Luther Reynolds of the Montgomery County Police Department. “It was clear he’d been drinking.”

Osburnsen, 50, was cited for driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and other offenses, Reynolds said.

Osburnsen did not respond to messages left at his home, and it was not clear if he has hired an attorney.

The incident started mysteriously outside Montgomery County’s 5th District police station, which is just northwest of the Germantown Road interchange of Interstate 270. A brief layout of its grounds helps explain the police allegations.

There are two parking areas outside the station: The public one, where people park when they want to come file a report or see someone, and the private one, where officers park their civilian cars and where patrol cars are kept. This private portion is secured by a 10-foot chain-link fence that has two gates. One is card-activated and used by officers, and the other is kept closed with a chain and padlock. At least most of the time.

At 12:35 a.m. Thursday, a patrolman noticed that one of the two swinging portions of the normally padlocked gate had been knocked off its hinges to the ground. The officer got out to investigate. He found the license plate and what appeared to be remnants of a car’s headlight, said Reynolds, who commands the district station in Germantown.

The officer ran the license plate through a computer, which kicked out registration information suggesting that until recently the plate had been attached to a Ford Explorer belonging to Osburnsen, who, as it turned out, lived 2 1/2 miles away on Tall Pines Drive. The officer and at least one colleague drove out to pay him a call.

They found the Explorer parked outside his house. It was missing the front plate, according to Reynolds. The back plate matched the one found outside the station. And there appeared to be “fresh damage” to a headlight and front bumper, Reynolds said.

The officers also found a wallet on the ground, along the path someone would have taken from the Explorer to the front door. Inside the wallet, they found Osburnsen’s driver’s license. The officers knocked on the front door, and eventually spoke to Osburnsen.

He was cooperative, was placed under arrest and was driven back to the police station, Reynolds said. There, he agreed to take a “breath test” to gauge his blood-alcohol level. Reynolds declined to give the results, but said Osburnsen “was charged accordingly.” At some point, Osburnsen told the officers he was trying to get to a Taco Bell, which sits around the corner from the station.

The officers think he had been drinking vodka, Reynolds said. They also think he didn’t get his Explorer all the way into the private portion of the lot, but backed up after crashing the gate and slipped away without anyone noticing. Because it was about 12:35 a.m., there wasn’t much activity outside the station. Reynolds said the area is well-lit.

“There’s certainly some irony in the fact he had been drinking, was trying to get some food and ended up in our lot,” Reynolds said.

But he stressed that the humor is overshadowed by what could have happened. What if a citizen was walking from his or her car to file a report? Or an officer going out to meet someone? Or a child wheeling across from a nearby skateboard park? Or if Osburnsen had taken a different route and hit a tree instead of a fence?

“It’s scary. It’s very scary,” Reynolds said.