Crime

Owyhee County deputy charged with DUI after on-duty crash

An Owyhee County sheriff’s deputy responding to an early-morning call for assistance in May slammed his vehicle into a utility pole, but he did not injure himself or anyone else. Two breath tests and a blood test showed that the 43-year-old was drunk behind the wheel, according to Homedale Police Chief Jeff Eidemiller.

Eidemiller was the first officer at the scene of the May 14 crash. Homedale police handled the investigation.

Kyle T. Pearson has been charged with misdemeanor DUI. He pleaded not guilty and a trial date has been set for Sept. 4.

Boise attorney Michael C. Larsen, who is representing Pearson, declined to comment on the case.

Pearson, who had worked at the Sheriff’s Office about six months, resigned May 22. He had previously worked for the Nampa and Cascade police departments, according to Owyhee County Sheriff Perry Grant.

Pearson worked two months at the jail before he was put on patrol.

“I was on the SWAT with him in Nampa,” Grant said. “He’s a highly trained officer.”

The crash occurred at about 6:30 a.m. on Howard Road near Marsing. Pearson was responding to a call from an ambulance crew to help lift a person.

Eidemiller said he heard Pearson report the crash to dispatch. The deputy reported the crash as a 10-55, the code for intoxicated driver.

“Initially when he said 10-55, I was thinking to myself, man, it’s just barely after 6 in the morning (and) we already have a drunk driver,” Eidemiller said.

Grant said that when a dispatcher asked for clarification, Pearson said it was a 10-50, which is code for a vehicle crash.

Pearson’s Sheriff’s Office vehicle, a 2009 Chevy half-ton pickup, snapped off the utility pole at the base, Eidemiller and Grant said. Grant and his chief deputy, Lynn Bowman, also responded to the scene.

Eidemiller said that Pearson did not smell of alcohol and that investigating officers did not find any alcohol in the vehicle.

Eidemiller, who has been Homedale police chief for almost 16 years, said he was shocked at the result of the breath test, which showed a blood alcohol content of .106; the legal limit is .08.

“He was vehemently and adamantly denying any alcohol consumption whatsoever,” Eidemiller said. It’s standard procedure to test for alcohol or drugs any time an on-duty officer is in a crash, Eidemiller said.

Pearson was taken to the Homedale Police Department, where another breath test was done. The result of that was .104. A blood draw was then done. Pearson was issued a summons and given a ride home.

“Not all DUIs are the same, and not all people are booked into the jail,” Eidemiller said. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a police officer or sheriff’s deputy driving a police vehicle on duty under the influence.”

The Owyhee County Jail is in Murphy, which is about 40 miles from Homedale.

Grant said Pearson was suspended without pay pending the results of the investigation. The results of the blood draw were a .11 alcohol level, Eidemiller said.

There were no witnesses to the crash. Grant and Eidemiller said Pearson indicated that he had some sort of coughing or sneezing fit that caused him to drive off the road. Investigators reported no skid marks.

Grant said the damage to the truck was mainly to the grill guard. The utility pole will need to be replaced, he said.

“Thank God he didn’t hit anybody,” Grant said. “I was mortified.”

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