Troopers are being blamed for the lighter sentencing of a box truck driver that killed five bicyclists on a Nevada highway late last year.
The wreck happened in December 2020, and the box truck driver, Jordan Barson, was sentenced this past summer.
According to the Press Herald, the troopers who investigated the crash are responsible for ‘weakened evidence’ against Barson because they failed to suspect impaired driving at the scene and did not require a blood sample. Barson submitted to a voluntary blood draw hours after the crash, and it was only then that high levels of methamphetamine were found in his system – nine times the amount that prosecutors need in court to prove impairment.
“They didn’t get a search warrant in the case, and that had to do with they didn’t suspect DUI,” former Deputy Clark County District Attorney Thomas Moskal told the station.
“Ultimately, that had negative consequences down the road.”
At the scene of the wreck, Barson told officers that he believed he had fallen asleep, and officers took him on his word.
“I don’t have reason to believe he’s under the influence, but he’s obviously distraught,” a trooper said in one of 16 body camera videos from the scene.
“He thinks he fell asleep. I tend to really believe that,” another trooper said.
At the scene, Barson submitted to a field sobriety test, during which he “raised his arms, performed an improper turn” and “used his arms to balance,” a trooper wrote. That trooper later filed a report deeming the results “unsatisfactory,” but noted that Barson was “shaking uncontrollably” and was an “emotional wreck given the severity of the incident.”
At the scene, officers did ask Barson to submit to a voluntary blood draw, but did not seek a warrant because they did not believe that they had probable cause, so Barson was not required to comply. He was later allowed to return home after a visit to the hospital, and did not admit to consuming meth until four days later during an interview.
A few weeks after the crash, body cam footage of the officers’ interactions with Barson was reviewed by a drug recognition expert, who said it was ‘clear’ to her that Barson was under the influence of a stimulant. However, no officers trained in drug recognition responded to the crash site the day of the incident.
“He is certainly serving time for the crime that he committed, but he is not serving the correct sentence for the crimes that he committed and that’s because the troopers didn’t do their jobs that day,” said Donna, wife of one of the bicyclists killed in the wreck.
Barson has since pleaded guilty to two counts of driving under the influence causing death as part of a plea deal. He was originally facing 14 felonies. He will serve 16 to 40 years in prison.