DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — The DeFuniak Springs Police Department caught a suspected drunken driver Tuesday night after he nearly ran headlong into a fire truck and struck another vehicle on U.S. Highway 331 just north of the city limits.
Before Randall Bray began the wild ride that ended with his arrest, though, he had run off the road and crashed into the woods on the side of the highway. A DeFuniak Springs police lieutenant, Uniform Patrol Division Commander William Earl Pennington, radioed in the wreck call.
But Liberty Fire District Assistant Chief Tony Roy said there was no law enforcement presence when his department’s truck arrived at the scene to help Bray, and Bray was determined to leave the scene.
“His airbag had deployed and he swerved into our lane. We had our lights going and hit our horns. That may have startled him but he only missed us by like 2 feet, and we had pulled as far as we could off the road,” Roy said.
Roy said the Liberty firefighters actually pursued the driver, and the first law enforcement unit they encountered was a Walton County sheriff's deputy.
Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson confirmed that Pennington reported Bray's accident over the radio.
Adkinson also confirmed that the Police Department later called the Sheriff’s Office “and asked if Pennington had been on scene” for the wreck.
It remained unclear Wednesday where Pennington went, or if he went anywhere, after seeing Bray’s car crashed on the side of the road. City Marshal Mark Weeks did not return a phone call and Police Department spokesman Lt. Richard Black did not respond Wednesday to an inquiry about Pennington’s whereabouts.
There do not appear to be any state statutes requiring a law officer to stop and render aid or apprehend a criminal when off duty, according to Greg Marcille, chief assistant state attorney for the State’s Attorneys Office.
“You’ll probably have to look at what the policies and procedures are for that particular law enforcement agency,” he said.
The DeFuniak Springs Police Department’s public records custodian was in training Wednesday afternoon and not available to acknowledge requests for information.
Black had confirmed earlier Wednesday that Bray had been arrested near the DeFuniak Springs airport close to the railroad tracks that run through the city. Breath samples taken at the scene indicated a blood-alcohol content of 0.232, or nearly three times the legal limit.
He said police responded to the incident involving Bray after being notified by the Sheriff’s Office that he had entered the city limits.
“There was no indication of anyone else reporting it to us,” he said.
Bray was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of a traffic crash. No one was hurt in the accident he caused. Bail was set at $2,500.