A 64-year-old Surprise, Ariz., man was arrested and charged with drunk driving even though tests showed that he had a blood alcohol level of 0.00 and a drug recognition officer said the man was completely sober.
Jessie Thornton, a retired firefighter who says he often sleeps during the day and is up at night because of his wife’s schedule as an ER nurse, was pulled over late one night after his car crossed the white line in his lane.
“He (the officer) walked up and he said ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,’ ” Thornton told local news station ABC 15. Thornton had just come from a late night workout at an LA Fitness gym, and says his eyes could have been red because he been swimming. He says the officer told him he had “bloodshot eyes” and said “I think you’re DUI.”
“He (the officer) goes, ‘Well we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ I said, ‘OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.’ ”
According to ABC 15, medical documents did indeed show that Thornton was scheduled to undergo a hip replacement two days after he was pulled over, and that the police report even noted that he had hip and knee problems.
Officers went on with the sobriety test, but as Thornton said, “At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and asked the other officer if he was doing it right.”
Still, he was later handcuffed and taken down to the police station, where he made to take a Breathalyzer test. The results?
“It comes back zero, zero, zero,” Thornton told ABC 15.
A drug recognition officer then looked over Thornton, determining that he was completely sober. After he did all the tests, Thornton said the expert told him, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment.’ ”
In fact, documents show that the drug recognition officer wrote in his statement that “in my opinion Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
By that time, however, Thornton’s car was impounded and the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division had been notified that he had been arrested for a DUI. He says he was later alerted that his license had been suspended. And because this happened on a Friday night, he didn’t get his car back until Monday.
Eventually, Thornton was released from police custody and the DUI charge was later dropped.
This isn’t the first Thornton was pulled over by police, however. The retired firefighter says he’s been stopped 10 times since he moved to the retirement community of Surprise from Ohio, and has been ticketed on four occasions. The latest stop and wrongful arrest have prompted Thornton to hire an attorney and sue the Surprise police department.
“This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black,” said Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor.
Victor’s office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise seeking $500,000.
“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” said Thornton.
“This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter,” said Victor.
...“Here he (Jessie) is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin,” said Attorney Charity Clark. “It’s frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing.”
Thornton said his daughter, who is in law enforcement, has filed an official complaint with the City of Surprise.