Friday, July 24, 2009

Third biker involved in officers' 145 mph joyride

The off-duty Gahanna police officer and off-duty state trooper who were clocked driving motorcycles at speeds of more than 145mph on I-70 last month were not alone.

An audio recording between the trooper who clocked their speed and the one who pulled them over indicated that there was a third motorcycle driver who was not given a ticket.

Trooper Jason E. Highsmith, 35, received a 147-mile-per-hour speeding ticket four days after the stop at about 4:30 p.m. on June 28. Gahanna police Officer Christopher Thomas, 33, got a 149-mile-per-hour-ticket eight days after the incident.

Video from the patrol car also shows the trooper who pulled them over and the off-duty trooper laughing and trying to figure out whether they were in the same class at the State Highway Patrol Academy.

Then Trooper Bryan D. Lee, 25, of the Granville post turned off the audio in his car.

Trooper Jason E. Highsmith, 35, received a ticket for speeding at 147 mph four days after the stop about 4:30p.m. June 28. Gahanna Police Officer Christopher Thomas, 33, got a ticket for driving at 149 mph eight days after the incident. The speed limit on that section of I-70, near the Buckeye Lake exit, is 65 mph.

Speeding is a minor misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $150 fine and a three-year license suspension. Ohio doesn't have an automatic suspension law or a harsher charge for excessive speed.

Neither officer was charged with reckless driving or racing.

Tom Hunter, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said department officials are not going to second-guess an officer's judgment on what charges to file. However, he said, there will be a full administrative review of the behavior of both the ticketer and the ticketed.

Lt. Shawn Davis, a patrol spokesman, said troopers generally are instructed to leave the audio on for an entire traffic stop. Davis said Lee did not issue the tickets at the scene because he was consulting a supervisor.

A separate audio recording along with video from the patrol cruiser was released yesterday. It includes conversations between the airplane pilot timing the motorcycles, Lee, and another trooper who flagged down the vehicles and then joined Lee.

"I got a couple of motorcycles that look like bullets coming at you," the pilot said.

Davis identified the pilot of the plane as Trooper Chris Hasty.

Hasty apologized to the troopers on the ground because he hadn't noticed the third motorcycle before he began timing the other two. That meant he had no proof of the third one's speed.

"He's definitely guilty, but I've got no watch time on him," Hasty said.

A trooper on the ground commented that 149 mph was the fastest speed he'd ever seen on patrol. The pilot said it "scared the tar out of me."

Highsmith pleaded not guilty this week in Licking County Municipal Court. His trial is pending.

Thomas is scheduled to be arraigned next week.

Before Lee switched off the audio on the patrol video, Highsmith can be heard explaining what happened when they hit a straightaway on the interstate.

"It opened up, and I looked at Chris (Thomas) and was like, '(expletive) it. I'm gunning it.'"

Neither officer would face disciplinary action until after the court cases, department spokesmen said.

Highsmith was reassigned from the patrol's Columbus motorcycle unit to the Delaware post.

Thomas has been on leave for an on-duty injury since December, said Gahanna Deputy Chief Ken Bell.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... Why is Lulu pass coming to my mind?

9:23 PM  

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