The Investigators: Joy Ride

The Investigators: Joy Ride
Source: Baton Rouge Police Department
Source: Baton Rouge Police Department
Source: Baton Rouge Police Department
Source: Baton Rouge Police Department
Byron Boudreaux (Source: WAFB)
Byron Boudreaux (Source: WAFB)
Dr. William George, PhD (Source: Tulane University School of Medicine)
Dr. William George, PhD (Source: Tulane University School of Medicine)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The 9News Investigators obtained the 911 tapes and recorded interviews of the off-duty policeman who crashed his Baton Rouge police car into the LSU Lakes.

The investigating officer stated he told the officer he was going to be charged with a list of things. However, the officer walked away without a single citation.

On September 11, 2014, Officer Byron Boudreaux with the Baton Rouge Police Department drove his police car into the LSU lakes. It was 1:43 a.m. Boudreaux was not on duty and he was not alone. He called 911 to report the incident.

"I just had a, uh, single car (accident) involving my police unit," Boudreaux told the dispatcher. "I'm going to need a supervisor at the corner of East Lakeshore and Cedardale."

"Are you in the roadway?" the dispatcher asked.

"No ma'am. It's in the lake," Boudreaux answered.

According to the police report by Sgt. Byron Fontenot, who investigated the incident, Boudreaux admitted after a night out at a bar, he went home, met up with some friends and decided to take a girl for a joy ride around the LSU Lakes. Fontenot's police unit dashboard camera recorded his conversation with Boudreaux when he arrived on the scene to investigate.

"It's not pleasant for me to do this," Fontenot said. "Understand? I mean, I mean…"

"I'm sorry I put you in this position," Boudreaux said.

"I'm in, I'm in a position of authority," Fontenot added.

In his report, Fontenot stated, "Boudreaux had a distinct and unmistakable odor of an alcoholic beverage" and that his eyes appeared "glassy and blood shot red." Fontenot said the officer refused a field sobriety test and was told he would be taken to another location to take a breath test. Fontenot's dash camera captured the silent ride to the LSU Police Department for additional testing. Fontenot reported during the transport, "Boudreaux continued to transmit the odor of an alcoholic beverage."

According to Fontenot, when they arrived at LSU, Boudreaux refused to blow into the Intoxilyzer 5000, a machine which measures the blood alcohol concentration in the body. He was then advised "he would be charged with DWI, reckless operation and failure to maintain control."

The first test was given at 3:12 a.m. It registered a zero because officer Boudreaux did not blow. Then, at 3:49 a.m., two hours after the crash, Boudreaux blew a .068. He was given a third chance to blow at 3:54 a.m. The result, more than two hours after the crash, was a .068. In Louisiana, the legal limit is .08. He was not charged with DWI.

The 9News Investigators took those results to toxicologist William George, PhD. He is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Tulane University School of Medicine. He has been studying the effects of alcohol on the body for 50 years. He uses a method called back extrapolation to determine what Boudreaux's blood alcohol level would likely have been at the time of the crash.

What's the likelihood looking at these results that he was over the legal limit at the time of the crash?

"I think it's very likely," George responded.

In fact, George said his calculations show the officer likely would have blown at least a .100 if the test had been done right away. In an interview with BRPD investigators, Boudreaux said he started drinking at a bar at 9:30 p.m. the night he crashed his police car.

"During my stay there, I consumed three beers, uh, quit drinking around say 11:45 p.m. or midnight," Boudreaux said.

Do you believe he only had three beers that night?

"I believe he had more than three beers prior to leaving the bar or that he had more to drink after he left the bar," George answered.

Boudreaux said he went home, where he met up with a couple of friends. He said a girl convinced him to take her for a ride in his police car. He agreed and then headed toward the LSU Lakes, where he lost control of his car and crashed.

"How fast would you say you were going around the curve before the accident?" the BRPD investigator asked Boudreaux.

"I really couldn't say with degree of accuracy how fast, but obviously, it was too fast for situation," Boudreaux responded.

The investigating officer asked Boudreaux about declining the initial breath test.

"Why did you refuse the first?" the investigating officer asked.

"I was, I guess panicking and wasn't thinking," Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux was not booked into jail, nor was he ticketed.

Cpl. L'Jean McKneely with BRPD said the department does not have a cut and dry policy for officers to follow when they respond to a call where someone might be impaired.

How does an officer decide this person will get a citation or this person is going to jail tonight?

"It's a judgment call," McKneely responded.

The investigating officer said, "I advised Boudreaux he would be charged with DWI, reckless operation and failure to maintain control," yet he was never cited or charged for that. Why not?

"Well, it was up to that particular officer to make that decision. Officers, at their discretion, can make a decision on whether they are going to charge an individual with a particular citation," McKneely said.

As for Boudreaux's refusal to take a breath test, McKneely said it happens often.

So, someone can get arrested on the street and four hours later take a breath test and that would be okay? You would let them sit there until they decided to take it?

"Yes. Well, it is due process," McKneely said.

Did this officer get special treatment?

"I don't feel that he did. This officer lost his job. He resigned in lieu of termination for incident that occurred," McKneely responded.

A news crew went to Boudreaux's home to ask for an interview, but he declined.

Boudreaux's crash cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Boudreaux received an estimated $2,000 while he was on paid leave. It cost $335 to tow his police car from the lake. Now, BRPD will have to replace that car and equipment damaged in the crash. McKneely said the department plans to take action to get some of that money back.

Back Extrapolation Method

"If we know what the blood alcohol level is at any one time and from that time backward in time, we want to determine what the BAC level would have been at an earlier time. First of all, we need to know that at least an hour or close to an hour had transpired following the last drink," George said.

The legal limit in Louisiana is .08, which means there is .08 grams percent alcohol in the blood. That converts to 80 milligrams percent. According to George, an hour after you have your last drink, your body breaks down alcohol at an average of 17.5 milligrams percent per hour. If you multiply the time elapsed (in terms of hours) by the rate of elimination you can determine the level of intoxication at a particular point back in time.

Boudreaux blew a .068 an hour and 45 minutes after he crashed. Multiply that (1.75) by the average rate of elimination (17.5mg) and you get difference of the BAC between the time of the breath test and the time of the crash.

"The blood alcohol level at the time of the incident was in fact 32mg percent more than at the time of the breath test," George said.

Remember, Boudreaux blew .068 grams two hours after he crashed. Move the decimal point to convert grams to 68mgs. Add 32mg to that. Move the decimal point back to the grams conversion. The result shows Boudreaux would have blown a .100g percent at the time of the crash.

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