Sober man arrested for DUI, claims it was case of ‘Driving While Black’
SURPRISE, Ariz. — A 64-year-old retiree was charged with a DUI after being pulled over by police officers in Surprise, Ariz. There was just one problem: A breathalyzer test revealed that the man was sober, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.000.
Jessie Thornton, a 64-year-old retired firefighter from Ohio, said that cops told him that they didn’t need a breathalyzer to give him a DUI, ABC 15 reports. Police on the scene reportedly told Thornton that they knew he was drunk merely by looking at him, even though he was completely sober.
According to Surprise Police Department paperwork, Thornton was pulled around at around 11 p.m. for crossing a white line in his lane. Apparently, the 64-year-old had red eyes after swimming at a nearby LA Fitness, but the officer assumed that he had been drinking.
“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes.’ I said, ‘I’ve been swimming at LA Fitness,’ and he says, ‘I think you’re DUI,'” Thornton told ABC 15. “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.'”
Medical documents confirm that Thornton was scheduled to undergo hip replacement surgery two days after the alleged DUI, ABC 15 reports. The incident’s police report notes that the Ohio native did have hip and knee problems.
Thornton’s health problems didn’t seem to affect the officers who conducted his sobriety test. “I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV, and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” Thornton told ABC 15.
The 64-year-old’s 0.000 BAC should have negated the officers’ DUI allegations. Instead, the Surprise Police Department instructed a drug recognition expert to test Thornton for potential drug use.
After extensive testing, the “DRE” declared Thornton to be sober, with no signs of the intoxication that would have led to a DUI arrest. “After he did all the tests, he says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,” Thornton told ABC 15. Thornton now believes that the DUI charge was motivated by race. “I’ve been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it’s amazing,” said Thornton. “It was driving while black. I just don’t want any of this to happen to somebody else.”