by: Tom Regan Updated:BARROW COUNTY, Ga. —
Police usually take a hard line against
drunken driving, but one metro father claimed his son died because an officer was too lenient.
Chris Walker acknowledged his 18-year-old son Corey should never have climbed behind the wheel of his truck after a day of binge drinking.
But Walker also questioned why a police officer didn't arrest his son when he stopped him on that late night in May 2010, when a traffic stop was followed by a tragedy.
"We could have went and got him out of jail. But as it stands, we can't get him out of the grave," Walker said. "They went out to several different parties and from what we were told, he was on his way to take his friend going home. They were having trouble with his truck."
Walker showed Channel 2's Tom Regan the police dash cam video of his son's traffic stop in the city of Auburn, located in Barrow County.
21-year-old friend was in the passenger seat.
Police pulled Corey over just after 2 a.m.
Three separate times, the officer asked Corey if he had been drinking. He even asked about a tapped keg in the truck bed.
The 21-year-old passenger claimed ownership of the keg, and the officer let them go. After getting gas, Corey dropped off his friend. Forty-three minutes after the traffic stop, Corey hit a utility pole and was killed in neighboring Walton County. Georgia state report said the driver "had an odor of an alcoholic beverage."
Blood tests showed his blood alcohol level at .217, about three times the legal limit for an adult. Corey's father said the officer should have done more to determine whether his son was intoxicated.
"He suspected him of drinking obviously. If he would have just got him out of the truck and checked. They did absolutely nothing and allowed him to drive off," Corey's father said.
The Auburn police chief said the city attorney advised the department not to comment.
The officer who initiated the stop is Scott Pendergrass, who was named Officer of the Year for the City of Auburn in 2011. His personnel file shows nothing about the questionable traffic stop.
Channel 2 Action News showed the video to the Georgia director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"It's hard to know what the officer was thinking," Barry Martin said. "You would want to know why they didn't pull them out of the car."
What's not known is whether the officer smelled alcohol on the driver. Former DeKalb district attorney J. Tom Morgan said that would be an important point, but he added: "I would think based on the officer's knowledge and experience, he certainly could have gone a step further and asked this kid to take an Alco-sensor test."
From the dash-cam video, the officer asks a question about this very thing.
Pendergrass: "If I gave you a
Breathalyzer you would pass with flying colors?
Corey Walker: "Yes, sir."
Christopher Walker said his son's wreck could have been even worse.
"You know, a family could have been coming around the corner and he could have hit them," said Walker. "If the officer would have just done his job, my son would be alive today."
We showed the dashboard video to Georgia's peace officers standards and training, the agency that certified police officers.
A representative told us based on what they saw in the video they could not draw a conclusion on whether the officer should have requested that the teen take a field sobriety test.