An administrative judge has reversed the firing of a Butner police captain, who was the ranking officer at a 2010 traffic stop in which the Butner police were accused of protecting a state trooper suspected of driving drunk.
The Butner Public Safety division must reinstate Capt. Walter Bruce Williams’ position and rank, along with back pay and reasonable attorney fees.
According to Judge Beecher R. Gray’s decision released Monday, the department did not meet the burden of proof necessary to fire Williams with cause, in part because it had no policies regarding field sobriety tests for Williams to have violated.
Three Butner officers lost their jobs for actions regarding a traffic stop at 1:48 a.m. April 3, 2010. Lt. Daniel Chase Parrott, who also appealed his dismissal, initially reported that a Mustang convertible on Interstate 85 appeared to be being driven by an “extremely” intoxicated driver, and requested Williams’ presence after pulling him over.
The driver was off-duty Highway Patrol officer James Williams Jr.
Walter Williams arrived to the scene, no field sobriety tests were administered, the Mustang was towed, James Williams was taken to a hotel, and no charges were filed. The Highway Patrol later fired James Williams.
Gray’s decision concluded, “There is little evidence in this case as presented to support the premise that Trooper Williams legally was impaired by alcohol” when stopped. He added that “evidence suggests (Walter Williams) conducted a detailed and professional observation.”
Walter Williams testified that when he arrived at the scene, he spoke to Parrott briefly, examined the trooper’s condition, and detected no evidence that the trooper was intoxicated. The court document said Parrott said he had detected a faint odor of alcohol on the trooper, but Walter Williams, the highest ranking officer on duty that night, did not, and told Parrott, “You got nothing.” Parrott concurred with his assessment that the trooper was not intoxicated, the court document said.
Then-state Secretary of Crime Control Reuben Young – now secretary of the Department of Public Safety – Butner Police Chief Wayne Hobgood and Butner police Maj. Danny Roberts all cited Walter Williams’ failure to administer a field sobriety test as evidence of unsatisfactory job performance. But the judge noted that the relevant policies do not mention, much less require, field sobriety tests.
Hobgood maintained he knew nothing about the officers’ actions until he was called by a reporter a week after the incident.
Maj. Anthony Moss, a supervisor woken by a call the night of the incident, was the third Butner officer fired.