Police officer accused of driving drunk pulled over twice in one night

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WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — An Ashtabula police officer was pulled over twice in one night under suspicion of driving under the influence before he was arrested.

Willoughby police received a call about a pickup driving erratically around 1 a.m. on June 21 near the intersection of SOM Center Road and Euclid Avenue.

Dash cam video shows a Willoughby officer began trailing the pickup before it pulled over in a Speedway parking lot. The Willoughby officer then learned that Ashtabula Police Patrolman Wayne Howell, Jr., 33 of Ashtabula, was behind the wheel.

Willoughby’s police chief said his officer did not conduct a field sobriety test or issue a written warning, but instead urged Howell, Jr. to get a ride home before leaving the scene.

“He felt the individual would get a ride home, but I wouldn’t trust anybody with something that important,” said Willoughby Police Chief Jack Beckwith.

About 20 minutes later, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper stopped Howell, Jr. on SR 44 in Concord Township and arrested him for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The citation shows Howell, Jr. had a blood alcohol level of .159, nearly twice Ohio’s legal limit.

“The individual was able to get back on the road again, and that was a definite failure on our part,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith said officers use their discretion in whether or not to make an arrest, but he says the Willoughby officer in this case, a 23-year veteran, handled the case improperly and will be disciplined. The exact discipline will be determined following an internal investigation.

“We’re thankful no one was hurt and we’re not having a more serious conversation here. We do hold ourselves and our officers accountable for what we do,” Beckwith said.

Ashtabula Police Chief Robert Stell said Howell, Jr. has been demoted from patrolman to dispatcher, though he was not suspended.

Howell, Jr. is not permitted to drive a police car, but may return to the force if and when his driver’s license is reinstated and he completes an alcohol treatment course, according to Stell.

Stell said Howell, Jr. was “an exemplary employee” before his arrest.

Howell, Jr. pleaded not guilty to a charge of OVI on June 24 and, Tuesday, the case was set for a suppression hearing in August.

FOX 8’s calls to Howell, Jr.’s attorney were not returned, and there was no answer at his Ashtabula home Tuesday afternoon.

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