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Trucker charged with DWI after slamming into Durham patrol car

Posted July 26, 2012
Updated July 27, 2012

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— A truck driver faces an impaired driving charge after his tractor-trailer slammed into a Durham police cruiser on the shoulder of Interstate 85 Wednesday afternoon, police said Thursday.

Officer Teresa Gilliam had stopped a 2010 Mazda 3 on the right shoulder of the highway at about 3:15 p.m., just past the exit ramp for Cole Mill Road, police said. A tractor-trailer hit Gilliam's unmarked car from behind, forcing it into the Mazda.

"She was getting ready to get out, and the 18-wheeler was swerving, and he hit her and spun her," witness Amanda Chavez said. "When I got over to the cop car, she was laid over. She wasn't conscious."

Gilliam was taken to Duke University Hospital, where she is listed in critical condition.

"Her spirits are good. She’s very positive. She has always been and will continue to be a very strong officer," Lt. Patrice Andrews said.

The driver of the Mazda, Robin M. Gee, 50, of Greensboro, was treated at Duke Hospital and released.

The truck driver, Charles Edward Caldwell, 44, of Roberta, Ga., wasn't injured in the crash, but he remained at Duke Hospital on Thursday after complaining of a health condition during police questioning.

Caldwell has been charged with driving while impaired and careless and reckless driving.

The citation notes that Caldwell's truck was traveling 70 mph, which is 10 mph faster than the speed limit on that stretch of I-85, and was swerving between lanes. It also notes that Gilliam had activated the blue lights on her car but that Caldwell failed to move out of the right lane, as required by state law when passing a stopped law enforcement vehicle.

Officers noted that Caldwell's eyes were droopy and his speech slurred, and police took a sample of his blood to test for alcohol or drugs.

A representative of Rockey's Moving and Storage in Killeen, Texas, said Caldwell had been driving for the company since May and had no previous problems.

Federal motor carrier safety records show Rockey's Moving has had three other accidents in the last two years, but no one was injured in any of those crashes.

“This is a total surprise. We’ve never had an incident like this in the history of the company. It’s very unfortunate. It’s very unfortunate for the officer. Our prayers go out to the family," said the company representative, who declined to give his name.

Gilliam has been with the Durham Police Department since 1997.

"We’d like to say thank you to the citizens that actually stopped to render aid to Officer Gilliam," Andrews said. "We really have been humbled by the appreciation and the gratitude that have just been coming in (and) the prayers."

92 Comments

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  • Marty King Jul 27, 2012

    Truckers are constantly raising terror on our freeways, we need more funding in Motor Carrier Enforcement.

  • NCHighlander Jul 27, 2012

    ligonmaterial23 I really shouldn't have to explain this but I have re-read my posting and nowhere did I tie this officer being crashed into with her being out there on the interstate. As usual someone feels they are so naturally endowed with superior intelligence that they can discern that which isn't there. My point was totally about using police resources to prevent crime in areas where they are needed.

  • ligonmaterial23 Jul 27, 2012

    I love these high crime cities with that have so many police officers that they can spare some to go play trooper on the interstates. You see them all along 40 and 85 just sitting out there for the easy pickings.Rabbitdog
    July 27, 2012 10:00 a.
    Well according to wral the troopers dont do their job anyway .
    I think they have every right , both shp and local pd to patrol any road as long as its in their juristiction .
    Whats to say the mazda was not on a side rd and the dpd followed and pulled it on 85 ?
    What if she was going home ?
    What if you were having a emergency and dpd was the closest to you ? No one would have a issue then about the locals being on the interstate

  • NCHighlander Jul 27, 2012

    Maybe these 'high crime cities' are conducting these traffic stops because they are an effective way to catch criminals with guns or drugs who don't think twice about speed limits.

    That's the given argument but the fact is that law enforcement officers are a limited resource and stopping cars passing by your city may net some criminals while other areas go unprotected at least by that traffic cop.

  • gnewsome1 Jul 27, 2012

    There is absolutely no excuse for this. The truck driver was DWI and should be punished for his actions. Do the crime, do the time.

  • hp277 Jul 27, 2012

    "I love these high crime cities with that have so many police officers that they can spare some to go play trooper on the interstates. You see them all along 40 and 85 just sitting out there for the easy pickings."
    Rabbitdog

    Maybe these 'high crime cities' are conducting these traffic stops because they are an effective way to catch criminals with guns or drugs who don't think twice about speed limits.

  • hp277 Jul 27, 2012

    Hoping all the best for Officer Gilliam.

    Now there's this:
    "Because there is no safety reason to have a 60mph speed limit there. That particular stretch of 85 is no different than the one before or after it."aknowlton1499

    Not true - that section of I-85 is 8-10 lanes wide for a reason - heavy traffic volume as it carries the I-85 thru traffic, US 15-501 and US 70 traffic, and local traffic for Durham where 270,000 people live.

    There are 8 interchanges in 6 miles between Exit 172 (Durham Freeway) and Exit 178 (US 70 East). That's a lot of merging traffic and a lot of lane changes.

    If you don't want a ticket, then slow down for the 6 minutes it takes to get through Durham.

  • Half Red Half Blue Jul 27, 2012

    Because there is no safety reason to have a 60mph speed limit there. That particular stretch of 85 is no different than the one before or after it. The only reason the speed limit is 60mph is so you can steal more money by issuing more speeding tickets.

    They are not stealing money if you deliberately go above the posted speed limit. You are voluntarily forking up that money. Don't blame anyone else for inability to pay attention to posted speed limit signs.

  • hmmmmm Jul 26, 2012

    @Chplhill I wish I could "like" your comment, well said!

    There are more safe/sane truck drivers out there than not; however, just like it is problem with your every day automobile drivers, it is a scourge among truck drivers. We have had two serious accidents in the area in recent history do to impaired truck drivers & countless accidents due to impaired automobile drivers. The general consensus is that they think they can get away with it, NOT that they are OK to drive. We need ZERO TOLERANCE for DWI, not a .04 or .08! I say the first time they do it, they need to be punished & financially destroyed. Their victims don't get a choice when it comes to their decisions to drive impaired. Sending prayers & strength to the injured officer & her family.

  • thepeopleschamp Jul 26, 2012

    "The speedlimit drop is sudden and the Durham police are out there EVERY DAY pulling people over for going 70" dcatz

    If they are out there EVERY DAY as you claim, then I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who choose to speed where they know they will be checked.

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