COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
An off-duty Columbia police officer told his co-workers he saw former police chief Ken Burton drinking prior to officers pulling Burton over and ticketing him.
Defense attorney Andrew Popplewell disclosed some of the details of Burton's arrest in a motion to suppress evidence in the case. Burton faces one count of driving while intoxicated in Columbia Municipal Court. Popplewell wants to suppress all evidence officers gathered after the stop, claiming officers made it unlawfully.
The motion said Officer Jacob Yarnell was at a Columbia restaurant when he told an on-duty co-worker, Matthew Nichols, that he saw Burton getting ready to leave after drinking. Nichols told another officer at the shift meeting, Officer Mosby, about Burton. Mosby, according to the motion, left the shift meeting and told Yarnell to check and see what Burton was driving. Yarnell said he saw a dark Jeep leaving the parking lot, but did not see Burton driving it.
Popplewell said this amounted to hearsay evidence - he had seen Burton drinking, but did not see him driving. Mosby, the motion said, claimed he knew Burton drove a dark colored Jeep.
"While Officer Mosby contended that his probable cause was based off a combination of this hearsay and his personal background knowledge of what [Burton] drove, there are simply no examples in Missouri caselaw of probable cause being established through combinations of hearsay statements and background knowledge," Popplewell wrote.
Columbia police records show that the case file includes "breath test documents," but no details on if Burton provided a sample of his breath to test his blood alcohol level at all following the stop.
Popplewell further argued that Mosby didn't have a good reason to pull over Burton. Mosby, according to the motion, started following it at Locust Street and Providence Road. Burton turned right onto Providence, then left onto Broadway. Mosby pulled him over near McBaine Ave.
Popplewell said Mosby relied on four things to pull over Burton - that he stopped too far over the line at Locust and Providence, he turned into the left lane instead of the right lane when making a right turn onto Providence, that his car went over the yellow dividing line on Broadway and that his front tires appeared to touch the crosswalk at Broadway and Garth Ave.
Popplewell said Mosby's dashboard camera video of the stop shows those violations are "unfounded." City ordinance allows drivers to "cautiously enter the intersection" when making a right turn. Burton's quick left onto Broadway from there required him to quickly get into the left lane. Popplewell said the dashcam video shows Burton's car "barely touched" the yellow line for "a split second." That same video also does not show conclusively that Burton's front tires are in the crosswalk.
City prosecutor Robert Rinck declined to comment on the motion. A hearing is scheduled on Dec. 6 to discuss the case.
Burton resigned as Columbia police chief in Dec. 2018, following controversy over his decision to change the format of the Community Outreach Unit. His tenure as chief sometimes included public disagreements with the Columbia Police Officers Association and low morale among police employees stemming from leadership problems.