03/19/04 — Former sheriff's major gets ride instead of DWI test

View Archive

Former sheriff's major gets ride instead of DWI test

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 19, 2004 2:04 PM


There has been a clarification to this story from Sheriff Carey Winders.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders clarified today that he had never given a ride to a suspected drunken driver.

Winders had been quoted in a News-Argus story Friday as saying that when he was a rookie in the Goldsboro Police Department, he had taken home members of the City Council who had been drinking. He said today that he did not want to insinuate that these councilmen had been driving.

He said officers had sometimes given rides to people whom they felt were too intoxicated to drive or people who had been stopped but did not register the legal limit for intoxication on a breath sensor.

The original story follows:

A Wayne County sheriff's major says he was protecting the public when he gave a suspected drunk driver a ride home and did not charge him with DWI.

The driver was a former high-ranking sheriff's officer and a former Fremont police chief, who has a pending DWI charge in another county.

The commander of the Wayne County district of the Highway Patrol says that if any trooper gave a suspected drunken driver a ride home and did not charge him, the trooper would be fired for violating patrol policy.

Maj. Ray Smith acknowledged that he gave Terry M. Grant, a former sheriff's major and Fremont police chief, a ride home Feb. 9 after Grant was stopped for suspicion of driving while impaired.

Sheriff's Sgt. Max Staps had stopped Grant, who was in a van, at about 10:15 p.m. on Wood Peck Road near Ditchbank Road.

Smith said he was following Staps and saw the white van weaving a little on U.S. 70 East near Wilber's Barbecue.

According to the radio dispatches, Staps asked for a marked sheriff's car to assist him, but patrol deputies were investigating other crimes. Then he asked for a state trooper, but the nearest one, Robert Thaxton, was investigating another DWI.

Thaxton radioed that if Staps brought his suspect to the Wayne County Courthouse for a breath-analysis test, the trooper would complete any necessary paperwork. At that point Smith intervened, took charge of Grant and drove him home.

Smith defended his action by saying Grant, 43, of Norwayne School Road, Fremont, was not impaired.

"I talked to Terry for several minutes," Smith said. "His speech was not slurred. He was not swaying, but he did have a slight odor of alcohol. In my opinion, he was not drunk."

Smith said Grant told him he had consumed two beers.

"If he wasn't drunk," asked Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Terry McLeod in a separate interview, "why didn't he let the person drive home?"

Smith responded to the same question from a reporter, saying, "Our liability is so great. I didn't know how much he had to drink, and I don't know when he would be affected by it. If I had let him drive home, he could have gotten a 12-pack, drank it and had a head-on collision. Then everyone would have blamed me for letting him drive.

"The only thing I did was to assure that the sheriff and I wouldn't be liable and to ensure the safety of the public."

Smith said neither he nor Staps had a portable AlcoSensor, a device that measures impairment, in their unmarked cars. The major said he did not want to wait a half-hour for another sheriff's deputy in a marked car or a trooper to get to the scene. Smith says he now has an AlcoSensor in his vehicle.

Smith also said that the officer's opinion of impairment was the only evidence that lawmen had until the AlcoSensor was invented.

Sheriff Carey Winders backed Smith's decision. Winders said that when he was a Goldsboro police officer, he had taken drunken councilmen and even officers home.

"I've seen people outside restaurants sitting in their cars with the engine not running," Winders said. "I've taken them home, rather than wait until they crank their car, get on the road and have a wreck."

Grant resigned from the Sheriff's Office in 1999 and was hired as Fremont police chief. He was fired last August after being charged with DWI in Wilson County. His trial has been continued several times and is now scheduled for April 23, according to court records.

Staps declined to comment on the matter.