Drunk Lawmaker Seen Speeding Wrong Way Down Highway Later Suggested He Fight the Officer, Affidavit Alleges
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop's blood-alcohol level when he was arrested was allegedly 0.17, over twice the legal limit
Police say that in mid-March, the Kansas Senate majority leader, Gene Suellentrop, was seen driving erratically not long after midnight in the Topeka area. Another driver allegedly called 911 to report nearly being hit by Suellentrop's vehicle.
And that's when things got weird.
Following Suellentrop's arrest, an affidavit has been released by the officer who pulled him over revealing new details about the incident, in which he was accused of driving the wrong way.
In the affidavit of probable cause, written by Officer Austin Shepley and dated March 23, Shepley alleges that he had pulled the Republican lawmaker over just before 1 a.m. one week earlier after seeing Suellentrop driving the "wrong way on a divided highway" at "speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour" in a 65-mph zone.
After giving chase for several minutes, during which he witnessed the SUV swerve and seemingly put other drivers in danger, Shepley wrote that he stopped Suellentrop, 69, and noticed not only a smell of alcohol coming from inside the car but the driver looking at him "with a confused, frightened, blank stare."
Other behaviors Shepley wrote that he noticed from Suellentrop were "watery," "droopy" and "bloodshot eyes," as well as slurring of speech and difficulty maintaining his balance.
Suellentrop allegedly refused a Breathalyzer test, Shepley writes in the affidavit, saying that blood results came back six days later showing a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 — over twice the legal limit.
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According to Shepley, while in custody at Shawnee County Jail the politician remarked aloud: "All for going the wrong way."
Suellentrop also allegedly said the words "donut boy" while Shepley was in the room and, later, took on a "slightly aggressive" tone while at Stormont Vail Hospital & Trauma Center in Topeka, when the phlebotomist was taking his blood for testing.
"He made reference to physically going up against me," Shepley alleged in the affidavit. "He looked me up and down stating he played sports competitively in high school. He stated he could 'take me.' "
Neither Suellentrop's office nor the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office responded to PEOPLE's emailed requests for comment on Friday.
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While Suellentrop was initially released by a judge citing lack of information in the police report, prosecutors subsequently said they charged him with attempting to elude police, driving under the influence, reckless driving and speeding.
Suellentrop, a businessman from Wichita, relinquished "the bulk" of his Senate majority duties to Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley upon his arrest, saying in a statement obtained by The Kansas City Star that the decision would remain in place "until matters that I am currently dealing with are resolved."
"I regret that this incident has caused a distraction for my colleagues and the Senate staff, and most importantly, from the important issues we are debating on behalf of the people of Kansas," Suellentrop added.
According to the Star, Suellentrop was still set to receive $500 biweekly employee payments as of March 30, even after turning his duties over to Alley, 72.
He is set to appear in court on June 3. It is unclear if he has entered a plea.
KSNT reports that Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes said in a statement regarding Officer Shepley's account, "I am deeply troubled by the latest details that have emerged surrounding Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop's arrest. I thank God that no one was hurt by his extremely reckless and dangerous actions."
"While Senator Suellentrop deserves due process and appropriate consequences for his irresponsible behavior, he also deserves to be held to the same level of accountability as the Kansans he has been elected to represent. I am disappointed that he has not come to this conclusion himself," Sykes said.
Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and Vice President Rick Wilborn said in a joint statement obtained according to KSNT: "After having had a chance to review the affidavit, we reiterate our previous statement that the underlying incident is very serious, and we are thankful that no one was injured. While we continue to respect due process, there are many aspects of the alleged behavior that are deeply disappointing, and severe consequences will be unavoidable."
"With just a few days in the session remaining, we will finish up our work with Senator Larry Alley fulfilling the duties of the majority leader," they added. "Any decisions regarding the future will be made in due course."