Alcohol Charges Dropped Against Officer In Fatal Crash
Judge Rules Proper Procedures Not Followed
7:48 AM, Aug 19, 2010
Alcohol-related charges against an Indianapolis police officer who was accused of drunken driving in a fatal crash will be dropped after a judge ruled that proper procedures weren't followed in the investigation.Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said Thursday afternoon that in light of Judge Grant Hawkins' ruling, four counts of operating while under the influence, causing serious injury and one charge of operating while under the influence, causing death, will be dropped against Officer David Bisard. A reckless homicide and criminal recklessness charge will remain.
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Hawkins ruling meant specifically that Bisard, a nine-year veteran of the department, will keep his driver's license.Bisard was on duty when he plowed into a group of motorcyclists stopped at a red light Aug. 6, killing Eric Wells, 30, and injuring Kurt Weekly, 44, and Mary Mills, 47.At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Marion County Public Safety Director Frank Straub was visibly upset as he discussed the case and changes the department will make because of its missteps.The FBI will be brought in to assist in the investigation, and a professional standards division will gain more oversight of operations."Our investigation failed," Straub said. "We are embarrassed."Lt. George Crooks was removed as leader of the Fatal Alcohol Crash Team, a division that investigates fatal crashes that are the result of alcohol.The FBI will specifically determine if there were violations of federal law in the handling of the IMPD investigation."I assure the public that this tragic accident will be investigated to the fullest extent, and justice will be determined in a court of law," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said in a statement. "We will work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine if any violations of federal law occurred.Brizzi said he decided to drop charges because the blood draw was improperly taken and will not be admissible."It wasn't conducted at a hospital, as it's defined under the statute, and it wasn't performed by someone who has the legal requirements necessary," he said, adding that a lab tech at a clinic performed the draw.Brizzi said authorities aren't questioning the results of the blood draw, which showed Bisard registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 two hours after the crash, just the way it was obtained.Brizzi also blasted the quality of the police investigation, saying that someone at the scene should have recognized the officer's impairment and should have followed up to ensure procedures were properly followed."I am questioning their work at the scene. Every other person who we charge with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, we have probable cause affidavits," Brizzi said. "Officers are able to detect the odor of alcoholic beverages from several feet away, identify slurred speech, identify glassy eyes. I am frustrated, because there is an appearance that something was amiss and I'm not going to sugar coat it."Brizzi went so far as to question the truthfulness of officers at the scene who said they didn't know Bisard was drunk, but wouldn't speculate about whether there was a cover-up.Ryan Wells, whose brother was killed in the crash, said he believes fellow police officers lied on Bisard's behalf."I knew from day one that this was going to be a long and grueling process. I didn't know it was going to go this haywire," he said. "But when you're dealing with things such as a cover up, it's bound to go astray in every which way that it possibly can. People need to be held accountable, starting with Bisard."The Rev. Stephen Clay, president of the Baptist Minister's Alliance, also questioned the investigation."You can smell onions on a person's breath. You can smell chocolate on a person's breath. But the public is asked to believe that these officers who stop and identify drunk drivers on a daily basis had no clue as to whether this officer was intoxicated or not?" he asked. "I'll tell you what we smell is another attempt by IMPD to cover up for one of their own."Indianapolis Metro Police Chief Paul Ciesielski said the investigation is up front and honest."We promised an open, thorough investigation, and you're getting it," Ciesielski said.Hawkins ruled that because no officers at the scene said they thought Bisard was drunk and because a portable breath and field sobriety tests were not administered, there was no probable cause for a blood draw to be taken in the first place."We commend the Marion County Prosecutor's Office for coming forward early with the candid admission that the facility and med tech were not properly certified. Obviously, the failure to follow the appropriate standards and protocols meant that the blood draw result obtained was no longer reliable," said John Kautzman, Bisard's attorney, in a statement.A relative of Wells who didn't want to be identified told 6News that the botched investigation is disturbing to the family."We are very disappointed and aggravated, but not surprised," the relative said, adding that the family believes the officer received special treatment.In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Ciesielski defended the department's handling of the investigation, specifically the decision to administer a blood draw of Bisard instead of a Breathalyzer test at the scene.Bisard is suspended pending termination from the department.