A citizens review board will take a look at Tuesday’s incident in which a police officer drove his patrol car into the dining area of a restaurant on Tipton Street on Seymour’s east side.
That’s because the investigation has shown that Seymour Officer Mathew Carver was driving about 70 miles an hour en route to a 911 call when he swerved to miss a vehicle that pulled out of a side road into the path of his vehicle, police report.
“He has a duty to drive his police car with due regard to the safety of motorists on the road, and he was not doing that,” Assistant Police Chief Craig Hayes said of Carver.
The review board consists of Hayes, who is chairman, two citizens, city council member Lloyd Hudson and another police officer, likely a captain, Hayes said. That was formerly Capt. Jack Hauer, who recently retired.
Hayes said the review board will meet as soon as possible to review the case for a possible recommendation about disciplinary action that could range from a written warning to suspension to termination.
The recommendation will be sent to Chief Bill Abbott, who will have the final say about any disciplinary action unless the review board’s recommendation is for a suspension of five or more days. That recommendation would require a hearing by the city board of public works.
Carver and an intern riding in his squad car, Thomas Chamberlain, 22, of Martinsville, were not injured when Carver drove the 2010 Crown Victoria off the road and into the Wendy’s restaurant at 1101 E. Tipton St. There were employees in the restaurant at the time, but they were not in the dining area and were not hurt, either.
Carver was driving east on Tipton Street to a investigate a call at Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center at 1000 S. Poplar St. That call was regarding an incident in which two janitors told dispatchers someone was blocking them from leaving the school and one of the people had threatened them. Police were later able to determine the people blocking the janitors on the property thought they were up to “no good,” Hayes said.
It was not a lights-and-siren run, and Carver did not have them activated, Hayes said.
Meagon Burton, 21, the woman who pulled out in front of Carver from the driveway just east of Wendy’s, told police she didn’t see Carver’s police car and pulled out after a vehicle in front of Carver pulled into the parking lot of Busy Bee Liquors. The business is just east of the driveway Burton was leaving.
Burton, who was going to cross the westbound lanes and head east on Tipton Street, said she saw Carver’s vehicle and stopped, Hayes said. Burton has not been cited.
That forced Carver to make a decision — drive into eastbound traffic, hit the sport utility vehicle Burton was driving or drive off the right side of the road into Wendy’s, Hayes said.
Carver’s vehicle hit a culvert, damaging the steering and braking system, and then went into the Wendy’s.
Hayes said two witnesses told the department’s accident investigation team that they saw Carver driving too fast, and both estimated he was driving about 70 mph at the time of the wreck. The speed limit in that area is 35 mph.
One of the witnesses was the motorist who turned into the liquor store, and the other had been eating at Taco Bell several blocks east of Wendy’s at the time of the incident.
The police car also has a GPS unit, Hayes said, and it showed Carver was driving about 70 mph at the time in the area.
“That’s only an estimate because it only updates every so often,” Hayes said. “It’s not continuous.”
Hayes said it’s possible Carver might have braked after seeing Burton’s vehicle and could have been going slightly slower.
He said Seymour officers do receive driver training.
Departmental policy requires drug and alcohol tests for officers if they are involved in a wreck. Carver passed both of those tests after the wreck.
The college intern was alongside Carver because the department has always had a program that allows them to shadow officers, Hayes said. Those interns, who sign waivers, take tests and receive credit for completing internships.