Disgraceful: How an Ohio State Trooper's Dereliction of Duty Cost a Man His Life

Disgraceful: How an Ohio State Trooper's Dereliction of Duty Cost a Man His Life

There is a reason drunk driving is taken so seriously by law enforcement. Putting aside the fact that inebriated drivers kill thousands of people each year, idiots will try to convince others that most people can drive just fine while under the influence. No. There's always at least one life at risk when someone drives drunk— the life of the driver himself.

The primary goal of the police is the same no matter what part of the country you're in— to protect and save lives indiscriminately. Police officers that pick and choose who to help have no business being in the profession. A few deviants can give the entire group a bad image.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Five years ago, two Delaware County sheriff’s deputies decided to give a suspected drunken driver a break. But it was a favor clouded by contempt, ethnic slurs and unprofessionalism.

Rather than test Uriel Juarez-Popoca for sobriety, arrest him or wait for someone to pick him up, deputies Derek Beggs and Christopher Hughes dropped him off at a Taco Bell.

They did this, in part, because they didn’t see him driving the Ford F-150 pickup that had plowed into a cable barrier in the median of Interstate 71 on July 28, 2012. And Popoca, from Mexico, spoke little English.

The deputies decided not to call in an interpreter for Popoca, 22, who was disoriented and confused. One of them joked about the Taco Bell: “They gotta have someone in there who can interpret.”

Popoca’s blood alcohol was later estimated to be 0.23 percent, or almost three times the level at which Ohio drivers are considered impaired. He eventually was kicked out of the restaurant and left to stagger alone along Route 36.

Within an hour, about a mile west of I-71, Popoca was struck and killed by a passing motorist.
— Dean Narciso, reporting for the Columbus Dispatch

The DCSO has what's called a "shall arrest" policy regarding DUI. That is, if you're suspected of drunk driving, the deputy cannot let it slide— he must arrest you. In this case, an arrest would've saved Popoca's life.

Deputies Derek Beggs and Christopher Hughes disgraced the uniform they wore and dishonored the entire law enforcement profession with their discriminatory and unprofessional behavior by treating Popoca as a nuisance to rid themselves of rather than a man whose safety was in their hands. Their failure to act according to prescribed department policies, even to take Popoca into custody for his own protection, cost a man his life, left a family broken and tarnished the reputation of good police everywhere.

Even a supervisor got into the mix when calls began rolling in for help. From the Daily Beast:

“Mr. Popoca asked people at the Taco Bell to call the police because they dropped him off there so they could come back and get him. He also asked the cashier to drive him back to his truck on the interstate. He clearly had no idea what was going on, was confused, disoriented and still intoxicated,” the complaint says.

Multiple officers including Beggs and Carpenter, were aware of the radio call and danger Juárez-Popoca faced but failed to take action to protect him, the lawsuit alleges.

After the Taco Bell manager’s calls, Sergeant Jonathan Burke called Deputy Beggs and asked why Juárez-Popoca was not arrested. Burke suggested that next time, Beggs should “take the guy out of the freaking county or something so we’re not getting calls on it, you know, 20 minutes later,” according to the lawsuit.

For every reasonable individual that will recognize this incident for what it is— an isolated incident that does not reflect a majority— countless more will use it to demonize our law enforcement. We must praise those that serve honorably, but more importantly, we must cast out those that don't.

State Trooper Sean Carpenter had the chance to save a life. He failed:

The events that night made national news and cast the deputies as inept and callous — even as some of their peers and the police union defended them. Both were fired, but later permitted to resign with no admission of guilt. A State Highway Patrol trooper also had responded, but Trooper Sean Carpenter left Popoca in the deputies’ care. Charges of dereliction of duty against him were overturned on appeal and he continues to be a trooper.

Part of the agreement with the deputies forced the sheriff’s office to provide them a “neutral” employment reference for future employers.

Earlier this year, a civil rights lawsuit against Delaware County was settled for $300,000, money that will go to Popoca’s family. But that won’t replace a father and husband, attorneys said.

People like Beggs and Hughes are the reason why good cops are disrespected. Troopers like Sean Carpenter are the reason why bad cops are still out there.

See the full court case here.

Stay alert. Stay alive.

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