The Mystery Of The Drunk Driver

It was at dusk on Sunday evening 12/15/13. As I drove north on I35 nearing Hillsboro, Texas I had an encounter with an apparent drunk driver. In front of me I saw a white S-10 Chevrolet pickup (an older vehicle – late 90’s model) that was all over the road. Traffic was heavy. He took an 18 wheeler completely to the shoulder of the highway. I decided to hold back to observe. The pickup continued to drive erratically. I dialed 911. When the dispatcher answered, I gave her the details that I was observing. By that time we had passed through Hillsboro and the Outlet Mall. I gave the dispatcher our exact location. The truck took the left lane with me in the right lane. With us driving side by side it kept other drivers from passing and potentially coming in contact with the impaired driver. The pickup driver was driving as slow as 45 MPH but increased speed to 60 as we approached the I-35E / 1-35W split. The dispatcher wanted to know which way the the driver was going to go as he approached the split. I informed her that he took I-35E toward Dallas. The 18 wheeler went to Fort Worth.

My plan was to also go to Fort Worth, but I thought that as dangerous as the situation was I would stay behind the S-10, to assist the 911 operator as she relayed information to an officer. Traffic remained heavy, Then suddenly the dispatcher said “thank you for your help” and hung up.

I made the choice to hang back, follow and see what happened, even though it was going to take me several miles out of my way. I had a room reserved at Alvarado on I-35W, so I knew I would need to end up there. As we continued on, the driver improved, mostly staying in one lane but often drifting to the shoulder and would drive on the rumble strip without making correction. I knew from that the guy wasn’t completely alright so I just kept following, thinking that if I couldn’t avert an accident, at least I could be a witness. The guy did much better with his driving when we were mostly on long open stretches of highway with lighter traffic. It was when we got where other traffic was entering or was heavier that he would start to stray from lane to lane. No sign of a police officer as we passed through Italy, Texas.

I decided to call 911 again. This time I connected to Ellis County and gave her all the information. We talked for a few minutes and she said to hold while she patched me over to the Waxahachie PD. By that time we were just getting to the south side of Waxahachie. That dispatcher told me she had an officer up ahead at mile marker 401. We were at mile marker 396. She ask me if I had the license plate number. I had been able to get it earlier in the night so I gave it to her. She wasn’t able pull that number up, so I pulled up closer to double check. The plate was obscured by a trailer ball but I gave her a couple of options. A 2 may be a Z or a C may be a G. Was the E perhaps an F.

Now we were almost to the 401. She ask me to turn on my flashers. At that point I was asked to back off. A Waxahachie PD car over took me, pulling between me and the S-10.

Just then the S-10 started to take an exit in front of in front of Motel 6 /Comfort Inn. Then he jerked back and came back unto the interstate right in front of the officer. At least I felt that my case was made that we for sure were dealing with a drunk driver. The driver made a couple of other erratic moves. The red lights went on. The S-10 continued to drive. Just before he got to the Hwy 287 he pulled to the side. More than a dozen cars held back, then slowly eased on by. When there was a break in the traffic, I pulled over in the left lane and continued on north. It was approximately 7:10 PM. I had driven approximate 40 miles out of my way, but felt good that I had taken a drunk driver off of the road.

Needing to make my way back to Alvarado, I turned at the next exit, which was Hwy 287.

Curiosity got the better of me, so instead of heading west on 287, I hit the cloverleaf and headed back down I-35 south. I could see the flashing lights up ahead. The VFW is directly across the highway from where the stop was made, so thinking that was a good vantage point. I pulled in the parking lot, so I could observe how badly the guy did as he was pulled out for a sobriety test. The time it took me double back and get parked was less than 2 minutes. The flashing lights were gone. What had happened? I thought that perhaps my view was being impeded by something. I pulled out to the frontage road. The S-10 and police car were nowhere to be seen. I continued down to the next turn around and headed back north bound. Nothing. I took the 287 Eastbound exit, thinking for safety that perhaps the officer had the driver pull over to the civic center parking lot. I couldn’t see anything. I continued on down and never saw either again. I then turned back and headed west on 287 to make my way to my destination.

As I drove I tried to contemplate what had happened. I little anger built up inside me. There are only 2 possibilities that I can come with.

1. The officer knew the guy and decided to give him a pass. Had it not been for the erratic move at the exit when the officer first pulled behind him, I would say that the guy didn’t appear drunk and the officer thought I had exaggerated the situation, so rather than checking him just let him go. No sworn peace officer would have ignored this behavior unless he knew the driver and was friends with him.

2. The driver took off northbound with the officer in pursuit. Why did I not see flashing lights. I had a clear view for at least 1/4 to 1/2 mile in that direction.

A few questions that I ask myself. Was cronyism at work? Did the guy get turned loose to go on down the road and create an accident? Did the officer have a dashcam running as he came in behind the guy? If this writing fell into the hands of the Waxahachie PD Chief, would he investigate? Was going out of my way an hour or more, worth the time I spent?

If I had it to do all over again, what would I do? I think I should have stayed to observe. Perhaps the officer would have reacted differently.

Then there was this incident .

Approximately 10 years prior to the one above, I encountered something similar. It was early morning, probably around 7:30 AM. A guy in a new looking Oldsmobile was driving all over the highway between Liberty Hill and Georgetown. I got on with a 911 operator. The guy was all over the highway, putting cars in the ditch from both directions. I stayed on with operator. I believed that I would see carnage before it was all over. I was begging her to get someone there. I was even in fear of my own safety, even though I was well behind him, but felt compelled to stay with him.

When we got to I-35 the car headed south. Luckily there was an 18 wheeler saw what was happening and we were able to create a blockade and keep most other traffic away from him. Finally Round Rock PD intercepted him as he got in the middle of Round Rock. He exited and they followed him to a business park. He drove to an upholstery business. With guns drawn they got the guy out. I figured I had seen enough and left.

Later that day I ran onto one of the officers that was involved in a restaurant. He said the guy wasn’t arrested. He was diabetic and just needed insulin. I left scratching my head about that one.

Coincidentally, about 4 years before the incident that happened up South of Dallas, this happened in the same area.

I was on my way to Dallas one night to attend a Ice Hockey Game the next day. My son Justin, home on leave from the Marines, and my Grandson Tyler were with me. We encountered a drunk driver on I-35 south of Waxahachie. I called 911. I stayed on the phone with the operator for approximately 10 to 12 miles until finally Red Oak, Tx PD took over. That time we were asked to remain at the scene of the arrest until several other officers arrived. This guy could hardly stand when they got him out. They took my information, I suppose in case that needed me to testify. I never did hear anything else about that incident.

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