One Wrong Turn

Abbey Brown

Tyler Twyman walked down the halls of the Warren County Justice Center with hesitation. When he walked into the lobby of the Department of Motor Vehicles, his mother, Dawn Bucy, pointed to a poster on the wall.

“U Drink, U Drive, U Walk.”

They both laughed sarcastically.

Then he surrendered his license.

The Canmer freshman was convicted of driving under the influence under 21 that morning.

He had no idea that choosing to drive to Waffle House on Feb. 21 would change his life.

The decision

Around 3 a.m., Twyman and a friend made a right out of the Pearce-Ford Tower lot onto Normal Drive. They got into the right turn lane, intending to go to McDonald’s. After a last minute decision to go to Waffle House, Twyman turned left from the right turn lane, on a red light, heading onto University Boulevard.

Campus police officer Sgt. Kerry Hatchett was sitting in front of Jones-Jaggers Hall watching for someone to do just that.

“Oh, look at that,” Hatchett said. “Here we go.”

He pulled out of Jones-Jaggers following the pick-up truck and calling its license plate into the communications officer. He turned his flashing lights on after he called in the plate.

Hatchett and Twyman were now on Nashville Road. Twyman stopped on the side of the road, in front of Lansdale Drive.

After calling in Twyman’s information, Hatchett approached the car and asked Twyman for his license and proof of insurance. Hatchett asked him if he had had anything to drink. Twyman said no.

“Nothing at all?” asked a skeptical Hatchett.

“No sir,” Twyman replied. “Nothing at all.”

“So, if I give you a breath test, it will show all zeros?” Hatchett asked.

“Yes, sir,” Twyman said.

Twyman lied.

His preliminary breath test registered above .01, the legal limit for those under 21.

Hatchett asked him to turn around and put his hands behind his back.

“I’m disappointed in myself,” Twyman said. “I feel sober.”

The arrest

In the back of the police car, on the way to the jail, Twyman apologized to Hatchett through the fiberglass security cage.

“Often times, people do apologize to you,” Hatchett said later. “I wonder if they are sorry for what they did or sorry for getting caught.”

Twyman sat in the Warren County Regional Jail garage for 20 minutes, in handcuffs, waiting for the breathalyzer to calibrate.

The breathalyzer beeped letting Hatchett know it was ready. He led Twyman up to the machine.

“Take a deep breath, and then blow it out hard until I tell you to stop,” Hatchett said.

His blood alcohol content registered at .067. The legal limit is .08.

“The good news is, you blew under the legal limit,” Hatchett said. “The bad news is, you aren’t 21.”

He led Twyman into the jail. The heavy metal doors opened and closed with a loud thud.

Twyman was taken into the holding cell for processing. Hatchett and jail officials asked him a number of questions. He sat on the bench answering them quietly while looking at the floor and shuffling his feet.

The cuffs were taken off, and he had to take off his shoes, belt and all his jewelry. He then leaned against the wall, hands and legs spread apart, and was patted down by a jail official.

Hatchett left the jail, but Twyman wasn’t so lucky. He had to spend the night in the drunk tank, a large concrete room where anyone arrested who has drugs or alcohol in their system must stay for at least five hours.

The officers

Although that night was one Twyman said he’ll never forget, it was an ordinary one for Hatchett. On busy weekends, he may make as many as 10 DUI arrests, sometimes more.

Together, Hatchett and Officer Craig Beckmann work the heaviest drunk driving arrest shifts – Thursday and Friday nights. For every stop that an officer makes, another officer comes to back him or her up.

Although their personalities are different, the two say they make a good pair.

Beckmann listens to rock ‘n roll, while Hatchett listens to Christian music or sports radio. It is hard to spot Beckmann without a grin on his face, but Hatchett has a more stern demeanor. And Hatchett has been with the department longer than Beckmann.

Beckmann stands back when assisting Hatchett’s stops, but he keeps a watchful eye on the passengers. Hatchett, when backing up Beckmann, is usually more involved in the stops.

Hatchett has been with campus police for six years. He said the third shift, from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m., works best for him and his family. He has three children, an 18-year-old daughter and 12-year-old twins, a son and a daughter.

Beckmann, who works the second shift from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m., has two sons, ages 8 and 5.

Hatchett said that many times the DUI arrests he makes get dropped in court.

“I don’t take it personally, because if you do, you’ll burn out,” he said, keeping a steady eye on the cars driving down University Boulevard. “I look at it as saving a life, either their life or someone else’s. I’ve done my job for the night. I put it in the hands of the justice system to do their part and finish the job. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.”

The consequences

Hatchett did his part Feb. 21. And the court system began its part that morning.

Twyman, still in handcuffs and the bright orange jail shirt, walked into court with the others who had been arrested the night before or that morning.

He stood in line waiting for Judge Tom Lewis, his hands crossed behind his back with his head down.

He plead not guilty.

“My job requires driving,” he said to the prosecuting attorney. “I gotta keep my job because I gotta pay for my truck and now these fines.”

His first day as a pizza delivery man was the night he was arrested.

“If I hadn’t ran that red light, I probably wouldn’t be here,” he said after court. “I felt perfectly fine.”

A friend picked Twyman up from jail. He got his car, which he left on the side of Nashville Road, and went back to his dorm room to sleep.

“It was cold in there,” he said. “I really couldn’t sleep.”

He called his mom while she was at work that afternoon.

And Bucy wasn’t happy.

“I’ve never even had a ticket,” she said later. “I’m not going down because of him.”

Her initial concern was the effect Twyman’s DUI would have on her family’s insurance.

“I told him he was going to have to get insurance in his own name,” Bucy said. “And he said in a quivering voice, ‘Don’t do that to me,’ like it was my fault. He did it. He knows better. He’s been taught better.”

Bucy said this is something her son won’t forget.

“The lessons I learned in life I bought and paid for myself,” she said. “This is one he’ll buy and pay for himself.”

As she described her son’s arrest, he sat on her living room floor. He alternated playing with the family’s puppy and playing video games with his 12-year-old brother Clenton.

Bucy said when her son came home to talk to her about his arrest, he “walked in like a dog with his tail between his legs.

“He just sat at the table saying nothing. He’s going to struggle with this.”

The others

Twyman and Bucy aren’t the only ones who have to face these consequences. There were 191 people arrested for DUI in 2002 by campus police alone.

The same evening Twyman was arrested, another Western student was arrested for DUI. She declined to give her name.

A city police officer attempted to stop the student at 13th and Center streets for driving without her headlights, but she didn’t stop after the officer turned on his lights and sirens. Beckmann joined the pursuit.

She continued to drive turning left onto Normal Drive and stopped at a red light at the intersection of Normal and Regents drives.

The city police officer put his patrol car into park and ran up to the other car, hand on his holster, and opened the car door. The woman fell out of her car.

The city police officer and Beckmann helped the woman walk over to the sidewalk, which was bordered by a construction fence. She and her car were covered in vomit.

She fell several times while the officers were trying to talk to her. The woman kept repeating, “I want to go home.”

But she didn’t. Instead, she went to jail for DUI.

In court the next day, she plead not guilty and told Judge Tom Lewis she was celebrating her 21st birthday.

“Drinking is overrated,” she said in court through tears. “That’s the last time I do that.”

Eric James Ayers, a freshman from Laurel Fork, Va., was arrested for a DUI only steps from his PFT dorm room. Hatchett’s radar read his speed at 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. Ayers stopped after driving the wrong way in the PFT lot and parking his car only inches from another.

Hatchett conducted all of the field sobriety tests.

“I have one more test for you,” he said. “Turn around, and put your hands behind your back.”

He was cuffed and taken to jail.

Although Ayers was under 21, he was charged with a DUI because his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit for those 21 and above. His BAC registered at .110.

The lesson

Twyman was back in court on March 12. This time, he was in his own clothes as he sat in the court’s gallery instead of the holding area outside of the courtroom. His mom sat next to him.

The two passed the time while other cases went before Judge Joann Spinks Coleman by joking about the situation.

“I’d rather laugh than cry,” Bucy said. “I’ve laughed my way through some really tough stuff.”

In her lap laid the book, “Power of a Praying Wife.”

Twyman decided to plead guilty.

He will get his license back on May 15. It was suspended for 30 days or until he completes drug and alcohol awareness classes. After an evaluation at LifeSkills, he was told he will have to take two classes a week for three weeks. His first class is today.

He said he learned his lesson. But it wasn’t a cheap one.

He had to pay Warren County Regional Jail $45 for one night’s lodging. He paid Warren County District Court $220 for fines and court costs. His drug and alcohol evaluation cost $25, and the classes will cost him $180. He will have to pay $40 to get his license reinstated. Without including the increase in Twyman’s insurance, his DUI cost $510.

Those who choose to fight a DUI can spend thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees and court costs.

But money wasn’t the only cost Twyman incurred.

He lost his job as a pizza delivery man.

He got a new job at a retail chain but said it has been very difficult to get back and forth to work. It also took an emotional toll on him.

“It was hard to tell my grandmother,” he said. “She was upset about it and said, ‘I have four sons, and they never did anything like that. You knew better than that. That’s all I’m gonna say.’ I’ve never disappointed her like this before.”

Twyman said this lesson is one he won’t forget.

“I told a friend, ‘Don’t ever let me drive to a party, even if I’m not planning on drinking,'” he said.

“But I really just wish it hadn’t had happened.”

Reach Abbey Brown at [email protected].