Jackson Township officer takes heat for how he handled OSU playe - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Jackson Township officer takes heat for how he handled OSU player's crash

(Source: WOIO) (Source: WOIO)
JACKSON TOWNSHIP, OH (WOIO) - When Jackson Township Police pulled up to an accident scene last July, they quickly realized they had a potential media firestorm on their hands.

Turns out, the victim was Devin Smith, star wide receiver of the National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Chief Investigator Carl Monday looked into the accident and how it was handled by police.

Smith had been driving home from a friend's house where he spent the night, when his Pontiac Grand Am reeled out of control, striking a pole and flipping on its side.

The car was totaled. Smith escaped without injury but was badly shaken.

"It was scary,” Smith told reporters shortly after the accident. "And for it to happen…I'm just blessed to be here."

Smith admitted to police he had a couple of beers around midnight, about eight hours before the crash.

Two paramedics who treated him said they smelled little or no alcohol on Smith.

But one of the responding officers, Patrolman Walter Peters wasn't convinced and put Smith through a field sobriety test.

Dash cam video obtained by 19 Action News suggests that Smith had little trouble navigating the test. Officer Peters seemed to agree, telling Smith there were only "minor problems" in his test performance.

Still, Officer Peters told Smith, "Here's the deal. I have enough to arrest your for operating a vehicle while impaired."

In his official police report, Peters appears to contradict the dash cam video, saying Smith "loses balance" and "does not follow instructions."

At the scene, he told Smith, "I know you're going to be a .08 (the legal limit.)  You're probably going to be a .10 or above. Just by looking at your eyes you're at least a one."

With that, Officer Peters arrested Smith for O.V.I.

At the hospital, Peters encourages Smith to take a blood alcohol test, a test he's convinced will prove Smith is over the limit.

"I'm confident enough after 17 years, when we get to court, I'll win," said Peters.

But ten days later when the test came back, it showed Smith's blood alcohol level was only .02 percent. In other words, nearly four times BELOW the legal limit.  For a man Smith's size, that's the equivalent of one or two beers.

"In this case, Officer Peters got it wrong," his boss and Chief Mark Brink said.

"At the end of the day, I think we did the right thing by Devin Smith. I don't like the way we got there. I do believe there were some mistakes made," says Brink.

For one thing, Chief Brink concedes that Officer Peters failed to consider that Smith had just escaped a bad accident. Smith was groggy, but as it turns out, not drunk.

O.V.I. charges were dropped against Smith.  

As for Officer Peters, he was ordered to undergo retraining.

New procedures for drunk driving arrests have been put into place at the Jackson Township Police Department.

19 Action News requested an interview with Officer Peters. That request was denied.

We reached out to Devin Smith's family. His mom said they would have no comment for this story.

Click here to read a "letter of training" detailing the incident and the concerns it raised.

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