An Aberdeen Municipal Judge dismissed a DUI charge against the city’s Building Inspector after a brief hearing last Wednesday. Judge Scott Colom dismissed the case against Aberdeen Building Inspector David Low, saying that the Aberdeen Police did not have probable cause when they pulled over Low the night of July 23rd, 2011.
Low was pulled over shortly after 11:30 p.m. by Aberdeen Police officer Sgt. Robert Kendricks. According to sources, the Aberdeen Police(E-911) had received a call saying that there was someone driving erratically headed in to town on Coontail Rd. just as it merges into N. Meridean St.(just before the Sheriff’s Office). According to multiple sources, Low was leaving a party out at the Ten-Tom river on Coontail before heading into Aberdeen shortly after 11 p.m. Kendricks reportedly saw a vehicle that matched the description given by the caller and pulled it over. Low was given a breathalyzer test on scene and was taken into custody and charged with DUI after he allegedly tested nearly twice the legal limit for alcohol in his system.
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle investigated the case after accusations were made that Sgt. Hendricks only pulled Low over because Low was travelling with an ex-girlfriend of Hendricks. Sources said that it turned out that the woman was only a casual acquaintance of the officer, and the notion was found to be groundless. The Aberdeen Police Department forwarded the case to the city prosecutor’s office, where it remained until Wednesday’s hearing when it was dismissed after a matter of minutes. Randle, Hendricks, and at least two other officers who witnessed the arrest were reportedly stunned that the hearing was over so quickly.
Chief Randle told The Packet this week that he felt his department had an extremely solid case and he did not agree with the ruling: “All I can say is I don’t like how this went down.”
When pressed to explain his opinion, Randle declined. Several readers contacted the Packet accusing Low of receiving preferential treatment in the case. When a reporter for The Packet asked an attendant at the municipal court for the disposition of the case, a woman identified as Sharon Edmond told the reporter: “It’s really not a story” before looking up the information. Low was reportedly charged in a similar incident in Tupelo in the past and has has a contentious relationship with past administrations, but is said to be in a better situation under current government leadership.
Low’s defense attorney for the case, T.K. Moffett, told The Packet that he believed Judge Colom made the “absolute, right decision” in dismissing the case.
“You can’t just stop people at random. You just can’t do it” Moffett said. “There is precedent to dismiss the case, and that is what the Judge followed. They only pulled him over because of the call- nothing else, no tickets…nothing.”
Although Low could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday, an anonymous defender of the Inspector told The Packet that they thought it was a “targeted stop” and that the caller had an agenda against Low. They also pointed out that Low’s Blood Alcohol Test was administered nearly 45 minutes after the stop, nearly twice the recommended time. They argued that his Blood-Alcohol Content could have been “peaking” at the time of the test, and he may not have been DUI at the actual moment when he was stopped.
Judge Scott Colom declined comment, but several Columbus attorneys said that Colom has demanded a “high burden of evidence” in past DUI cases and he is very aware of the technical aspects of the law concerning probable cause(Colom has practiced as a defense attorney and as an interim Justice Court Judge in Lowndes County). One attorney noted that the police usually wait until another traffic offense is committed before pulling a suspect over based on a caller’s tip. Although it appears no other citations were issued, it is unclear as of press time if Kendricks mentioned or reported any erratic driving before the stop. Even if a ticket is not issued, an officer’s testimony regarding a violation would usually suffice for probable cause in a case such as this.0