Despite having a blood alcohol level of 0.000, 64-year-old Jessie Thornton was recently arrested and charged with a DUI in Arizona. Thornton, a retired firefighter from Ohio who recently moved to Surprise, AZ said cops told him the reason that they arrested him was because they could tell he was drunk by just looking at him.
Oh, and did I mention that Jessie Thornton is black? No? Well, he’s black. So … yeah.
Thornton, who sleeps during the day and runs errands and also works out during the night to accommodate his wife’s schedule as an ER nurse, was pulled over late one night at around 11 p.m. for “crossing the white line in his lane.”
“He (the officer) walked up and he said ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,'” said Thornton.
The 64-year-old says his eyes could have been red because he had just left LA Fitness where he was in the pool swimming.
“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes.’ I said, ‘I’ve been swimming at LA Fitness,’ and he says, ‘I think you’re DUI,'” said Thornton. “He (the officer) goes, ‘Well we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ I said, ‘OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.'”
Medical documents showed that Thornton was indeed scheduled to have hip replacement surgery two days after the incident, and the police report also notes that Thornton does have a hip and knee problem.
Thornton said two other officers arrived and they made him take a sobriety test.
“At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,'” said Thornton.
Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb.
“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” said Thornton.
Thornton was then taken to a police station where he took a breathalyzer test that determined that his BAC was 0.000.
“Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero,” said Thornton.
While in custody, a “DRE” or drug recognition expert is called to test Thornton.
“After he did all the tests, he says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,'” said Thornton.
The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, “I conducted an evaluation of Jessie, in my opinion Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton’s blood.
By then, Thornton’s car had been impounded and the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division had been notified of his DUI arrest. “I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something,” Thornton said.
After being booked, Thornton was eventually released to his wife, who had to leave to work to come and get him. “It was a mess, I couldn’t believe it,” said Thornton. “On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday.”
Thornton, who has lawyered up, says his DUI charge was recently dropped, but he is still pressing forward with a $500,000 lawsuit against the City of Surprise.
“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” he said. “I just don’t want any of this to happen to somebody else.”
Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor is convinced his client was racially profiled. “This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black,” he said, adding, “This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter.”
Thornton says he has been pulled over ten times and given four tickets since moving to Surprise, but with him having a daughter in law enforcement and his own former career as a firefighter, he has no personal issues with the police, generally.
“Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn’t right,” he said.