Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower answered questions from Plano residents about the department’s actions in the recent arrest of Bowling Green City Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash and a rash of thefts from vehicles in the community.
During his remarks before a few dozen people at the Plano Fire Department, Hightower acknowledged that Nash – who was charged May 23 with alcohol intoxication in a public place instead of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence – did, in fact, move his vehicle before being stopped by a deputy outside Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.
The citation from Nash’s arrest doesn’t explicitly indicate Nash moved his vehicle; instead, it said Nash “started the engine” and was stopped before he left the parking lot.
After news outlets reported Nash’s arrest and the sheriff’s office posted a news release about the incident on social media May 24, several online commenters asked why law enforcement didn’t charge Nash with DUI – a question based at that time on the description of Nash simply starting his vehicle’s engine.
On Thursday, Hightower said he discussed the incident the following morning with Deputy Brian Wise, who made the arrest.
The sheriff said he learned at that point that Nash had been observed backing his vehicle out of a parking space and that the commissioner was stopped before leaving the parking lot. Hightower said the deputy told him he believed he lacked probable cause in the form of witnessing a motorist weaving on a road or crossing the center line of a street to arrest Nash on a DUI charge, and that no field sobriety tests were administered before the arrest.
Such tests are not necessary to give before arresting a person on suspicion of public intoxication.
“To me, it appeared that he was operating a motor vehicle,” Hightower said. “I take a firm stance when it comes to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence ... my thing is probable cause exists when someone gets in a vehicle.”
The sheriff learned from visiting the scene of the arrest this week that no video surveillance footage existed of the incident.
Hightower maintained that different charges would be appropriate if the same scenario occurred again, but he commended Wise for taking action.
“It’s a teachable moment ... for anyone who says (Nash) got off, I don’t know if getting arrested, spending eight hours in jail and having your face plastered across social media is getting off,” Hightower said. “I won’t throw a deputy under the bus for a discretionary decision he made. ... If this scenario happens again, I think we would handle it differently and that’s my responsibility.”
Nash pleaded guilty to the alcohol intoxication charge earlier this week.
The Thursday meeting was the third in a series of community meetings the sheriff has had throughout the county.
At each meeting, the sheriff has appeared with the magistrate representing the community hosting the event, and Hightower and 6th District Magistrate Ron Cummings were asked several questions about law enforcement and community development.
Hightower also spoke about the department’s efforts to investigate a recent rash of property thefts from parked cars in Plano.
Hightower said the thief or thieves have been entering unlocked cars and taking guns, money, electronics and other valuables.
“These (thieves) are adults who a lot of times have drug issues, they need help with them and they’re looking for ways to go out and get money,” said Hightower, going on to urge everyone to lock their vehicles and secure their firearms.
Investigators have been able to lift fingerprints from some crime scenes and viewed home surveillance footage.
Hightower related how he investigated a similar string of thefts as a Bowling Green Police Department officer years before, patrolling targeted areas late in the night in unmarked vehicles.
That case was solved with the help of a resident who noticed a suspicious vehicle and contacted police, Hightower said.
“It takes an enormous amount of man-hours to solve these cases,” Hightower said.
The sheriff said he has also shared with Warren Fiscal Court his concerns about the office having limited space in the Warren County Courthouse.
Cummings, who was elected magistrate in November, fielded questions from audience members about development in Plano and the rest of the county.
Cummings talked about the possibility of an indoor ice skating rink and an indoor tennis facility being built.
The county paid for a feasibility study on the facility, and a public forum in March about the facility was well-attended.
Cummings said he knows county officials have discussed public/private partnerships and bond issues when it comes to financing a potential facility, and that such a facility could be recruiting tool for future industry.
The magistrate would prefer not to see the facility be financed on the backs of local taxpayers.
“If it costs us any extra tax, I’m not for it, period,” Cummings said.
Cummings was also asked about whether Plano Road or nearby county roads would be widened to accommodate traffic sure to come as more housing is being built in the area.
The magistrate said that he has sat in on Metropolitan Planning Organization meetings were the subject has arisen, but no specific plans have been developed.
Asked whether Plano would get a second park to complement G.H. Freeman Park, Cummings said the county is actively looking for more land to build an additional park.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.