DA investigating detective’s actions in road rage incident

September 20, 2013

The Washington County district attorney’s office is conducting an internal investigation of one of its detectives after he was involved in a road rage incident with a school bus Tuesday morning.

District Attorney Gene Vittone said he is aware of the situation and his staff is interviewing witnesses of the incident after the detective was seen shouting profanity at a school bus carrying Washington students and banging on the vehicle’s door at the stop near the Second Street playground.

“We’re looking into it,” Vittone said. “I’m going to take care of it.”

He declined to identify the detective or to elaborate on the investigation.

Witnesses said the man was wearing a handgun on his hip when he got out of his car and confronted the school bus after the two vehicles were facing each other on a narrow stretch of Donnan Avenue about 8 a.m. Tuesday. Neither vehicle could make it through the road, so the bus driver motioned to the man to back up his vehicle so they could pass each other.

The school bus was filled with students from kindergarten through third grade, witnesses said, and he angrily pounded on the door before parents told him to back away since he was armed.

Washington police were able to identify the man because surveillance cameras in the area recorded his municipal government license plate. City police Chief Chris Luppino said they do not believe criminal charges should be filed in the incident, but investigated because of reports the man had a gun.

“We found no criminal offenses were committed. At that point, the DA took over to see if anything should be handled by them internally,” Luppino said. “He wasn’t treated any differently. That had no determination as far as our investigation that he’s a detective at the DA’s office.”

Dea Spencer, whose granddaughter is in kindergarten and was riding the bus that day, said a district attorney investigator came to her home Thursday to interview her about the incident. She thinks the district attorney’s office is taking the situation seriously, but she’s concerned that they’ll never know what happens to the detective.

“They talk about ‘Stop the Violence’ and then we have a representative with the district attorney’s office acting like this? It’s ridiculous,” Spencer said. “If I did it or you did it, you know charges would be filed against us. How will we ever know if anything is actually done about it?”

Spencer added that she doesn’t want the detective to lose his job, but that he should face some sort of disciplinary action to show this behavior by a public employee cannot be condoned.

She said the incident scared her granddaughter and she’s worried it might make her fearful of police officers.

“It’s a shame,” Spencer said. “Sometimes it makes you wonder if he thought he was above the law that day. I wish he would apologize. That would be nice, to start with, for calling those mothers those names and the way he acted.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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