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.”