(Editor's note: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify that it was just one council member suspected of DWI.)
A Whitewright Police officer was terminated Tuesday after he did not arrest a Tom Bean council member who was suspected of driving while intoxicated.
At About 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Whitewright Officer Andrew LeFevre pulled over a vehicle near the intersection of State Highway 11 and U.S. Highway 69. A news release issued Tuesday evening by Police Chief Beau Heistand states the officer saw the vehicle traveling into the oncoming lane of traffic, and the person driving the vehicle was a Tom Bean council member who Heistand confirmed Wednesday as Ben Vincent.
“During the course of the traffic stop, the driver was found to be heavily intoxicated and admitted to consuming an entire bottle of wine in the three hour period preceding the stop,” Heistand said in the release. “Officer LeFevre made a decision to allow someone to come pick up the individual in lieu of making an arrest for Driving While Intoxicated.”
While LeFevre opted not to make the arrest, Officer Mark Munt, who provided backup during the incident, told Vincent he would have arrested him in an exchange recorded by the officer's body camera.
“If it were me, you'd be going to jail,” Munt said in the footage. “It's that simple.”
Vincent was not arrested, and a police report was not filed. Vincent declined to comment on the traffic stop in a call placed to him on Wednesday afternoon. The release states LeFevre had a pending resignation with the department as he was going pursue a job elsewhere. Heistand said the officer was with the department for two months and his last day was previously set for July 31. Heistand noted LeFevre has a job lined up out of state, and he did not know if that job was still available to the officer.
“Statements were made on scene indicating that if Officer LeFevre was not leaving the department soon, the driver would have been arrested for DWI,” Heistand said in the release.
LeFevre was let go Tuesday, and Heistand referred questions seeking additional comment back to his news release.
“I expect our officers to efficiently and effectively perform their duties of enforcing laws of the United States, State of Texas and this City,” Heistand said in the release. “These laws are to be enforced regardless of outside circumstances, including a limited time of employment remaining with this department. The decision made by the officer is not the standard at which this agency operates.”
A call placed to LeFevre Wednesday was answered by a woman who did not identify herself. When the Herald Democrat asked if Andrew LeFevre, formerly of the Whitewright Police Department, was available, the woman ended the call.
A message left at another phone number listed for LeFevre was not returned Wednesday.
Tom Bean Mayor Sherry Howard, declined to comment on Vincent's traffic stop, but did offer the following statement:
“We know drunk driving is not acceptable by anybody,” Howard said. “Whether you're a council member or not, you should never be drunk while you're driving.”