Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall was cited on suspicion of driving under the influence and prohibitive use of a weapon Saturday night.
Wall was stopped by a Colorado State Patrol trooper while returning from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's 100th anniversary celebration at Sidney Peak Ranch. A news release from the Sheriff's Office indicated Wall was pulled over at about 10:15 p.m. Saturday.
Wall said he was stopped because he didn't dim his headlights. He said he was not intoxicated or impaired.
"I did not consume anything that would have affected my ability to drive," Wall said Sunday when reached on his cell phone.
After issuing Wall a court summons, the unidentified State Patrol trooper allowed Wall to leave with a sober driver, who also was not identified. The prohibitive use of a weapon charge was made because it's illegal to possess a weapon when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A Steamboat Springs-based Colorado State Patrol trooper and a Craig dispatcher refused to comment about the case Sunday evening, referring questions to Capt. Brett Williams, who was out of the office Sunday and didn't answer calls made to his home.
Wall was in Denver on Sunday to attend the World Series game. He is not expected to return to Routt County until Wednesday. Wall refused further comment about the case except to say that more information would be made available in the future.
Other details of the incident were unclear Sunday, including whether Wall was given a roadside sobriety test. Steamboat Springs defense attorney Kris Hammond said there is no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test, but drivers who refuse a chemical test at a hospital or jail can have their licenses revoked for up to a year.
Routt County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger said it's not unusual for someone to be cited for DUI and released to a sober driver without being arrested. He said Wall's treatment was "nothing new or nothing special to him."
"This is very typical," said Klinger, who noted that the decision would have been at the discretion of the State Patrol.
The Sheriff's Office has opened an internal affairs investigation to be conducted separate of the State Patrol's criminal investigation. The internal affairs investigation will seek to determine whether Wall violated Sheriff's Office policies or procedures. Klinger, Sgt. Miles De Young and Investigator Mike Curzon will lead the investigation.
Klinger said internal affairs investigations are common when Sheriff's Office employees are accused of wrongdoing. Klinger cited an investigation in August that led to the firing of Mitchell Bachum, a probationary detention deputy who was accused of approaching an 18-year-old woman at a Fort Collins convenience store, asking her personal questions and for directions to a nightclub, and then asking her to get into his vehicle. Bachum was not charged with a crime.
It was unclear Sunday what punishment Wall, an elected official, could face if the investigation reveals he violated department policies.
Klinger said Wall is "an employee just like the rest of us" and could possibly be fired, but Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said such a move would be difficult.
"Who would fire him?" Stahoviak asked Sunday. "When you're dealing with elected officials, it's very different."
Stahoviak said she would check with County Attorney John Merrill to see whether the commissioners need to do anything in response to Wall's citation. Both Stahoviak and Klinger said Wall's citation has presented an unfamiliar situation.
"This is a new tune," Klinger said. "We've never danced this thing before."
All Sheriff's Office deputies were briefed Sunday evening about the incident by Undersheriff David Bustos. Klinger said he expects Wall to address all Sheriff's Office employees when he returns later this week.
More than 200 people attended the Chamber's celebration Saturday. Alcohol was served at the event, but no attendees reached by the Pilot & Today on Sunday could confirm whether Wall had any drinks. Cam Boyd, broker owner at Prudential Steamboat Realty, said he spoke with Wall briefly and that the sheriff did not have a drink in his hand at that time. Sandy Evans Hall, the Chamber's executive vice president, said she only saw Wall when he arrived.
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