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Attorney: Trucker suffered 'medical event,' not drunk before crash

Posted July 31, 2012

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— A truck driver charged in a crash last week that injured a Durham police officer suffered "a medical event" and wasn't drunk at the time, his attorney said Tuesday.

Charles Edward Caldwell, 44, of Roberta, Ga., is charged with felony serious injury by vehicle, driving while impaired, reckless endangering, speeding and unlawfully passing an emergency vehicle. He was released late Monday after posting a $500,000 bond.

Officer Teresa Gilliam had stopped a 2010 Mazda 3 last Wednesday afternoon on the right shoulder of Interstate 85 just past the exit ramp for Cole Mill Road, police said. A tractor-trailer then hit Gilliam's unmarked car from behind, forcing it into the Mazda.

Two truck drivers who saw the wreck said Caldwell's rig was weaving across lane lines before the crash and that, as they passed him, he appeared to be drunk or falling asleep at the wheel, according to an affidavit filed by police to obtain a warrant to search Caldwell's truck.

The search turned up a blue capsule on the floor of the truck cab, the warrant states.

Attorney Bill Thomas said the capsule was a generic decongestant.

Authorities who questioned Caldwell after the crash said he showed signs of impairment, including slurred speech and droopy eyes, according to documents. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol took a sample of his blood to test for alcohol or drugs.

Thomas said a blood analysis done at Duke University Hospital after the crash showed no drugs or alcohol in Caldwell's system, and he criticized the police for filing charges without checking on toxicology test results.

Durham police car crash Investigators, witnesses say trucker appeared to be drunk

"The Durham Police Department has an unfortunate history of charging people with serious crimes without adequate investigation," said Thomas, who also represented a member of the Duke lacrosse team, which had three players falsely accused of rape in 2006.

Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said the department had no comment about Thomas' statement, other than to note that Durham officers "are conducting a thorough investigation in this case."

Authorities said that, during questioning last Wednesday, Caldwell couldn't remember where his truck had been loaded earlier in the day, but he was clear on details of his trip until the crash, when he "suddenly couldn't clearly remember any details," documents state.

Caldwell has "an excellent driving record," Thomas said, noting that he has never been charged with DWI and hasn't had a speeding ticket in years.

The crash resulted from "a medical event," not an ongoing condition, he said, declining to elaborate.

Caldwell complained of chest pains while being questioned, and he was taken to Duke Hospital, where he remained until Monday.

Gilliam, a 15-year veteran of the Durham police force, was listed in fair condition Tuesday at Duke Hospital. Court records show she suffered brain and spine injuries and two broken ribs.

101 Comments

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  • Sherlock Aug 1, 2012

    If Durham Officers were properly trained they would have known what to look for with a person that has a medical problem. But the learders of the department do not want to take the time to properly train us for the job...

  • babsm59 Aug 1, 2012

    this is a tragic accident. My heart goes out to the officer and I pray that she can/will pull through. she can be on disability for the rest of her life. I'll GLADLY pay my taxes to help her. everybody hates the police until they need one!! there isn't enough money in the world to make me do her job!! nothing but thankless. I pray for her family. I'm sorry this has happened......including the truck driver!! LIVES HAVE BEEN CHANGED FOREVER NOW!!!!

  • piene2 Aug 1, 2012

    "And yes I can provide proof of what I have written here. It is all part of the, "Good Ole Boy System" here in north Carolina. piene2

    No one cares what u can prove! It has zero/nothing at ALL to do with this story. Go sip your wine and enjoy a fruit cup! This guy like everyone is innoncent until PROVEN guilty on the DWI charges. And it appears with NONE in his blood or urine he is innoncent of that charge. GOOD OL BOY has nothing to do WITH it!
    RM24"

    Perhaps if you bothered to read a bit it would become apparent to you that I was referring not to the truck driver but to an earlier comment about a drunken cop that was given a free pass on a driving while impaired choice. and by the way, what is wrong with wine or fruit cups for that matter?

  • golfin69 Aug 1, 2012

    Oh lets listen to the Attorney and believe everything he says because they are so honest... what garbage, oh Attorney Thomas lets talk to the PD and have them drop all Charges based on your oppinions.. Its called a process and if they had probable cause obviously the Magistrate felt that way or he wouldnt have signed off on the Warrants, The courts will do their job and if the charges are dismissed then they are if not I am sure you will find somehing to blame the PD for.

  • RM24 Jul 31, 2012

    And yes I can provide proof of what I have written here. It is all part of the, "Good Ole Boy System" here in north Carolina.
    piene2

    No one cares what u can prove! It has zero/nothing at ALL to do with this story. Go sip your wine and enjoy a fruit cup! This guy like everyone is innoncent until PROVEN guilty on the DWI charges. And it appears with NONE in his blood or urine he is innoncent of that charge. GOOD OL BOY has nothing to do WITH it!

  • ss3510 Jul 31, 2012

    NO Angry one...people are making SERIOUS comments about the abuse of Law Enforcement on Society.

    The driver had NO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL in his system.

  • jdupree Jul 31, 2012

    The real question is did the medical event, presumably a heart attack or stroke occur befor or as a result of the accident. If after, he should be charged with failure to move over or to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Surely the DWI charges will be dropped and his bond dropped to an amount reasonable for the potential charge.

  • ss3510 Jul 31, 2012

    The Police State continues unabated. Mostly because so many are so ready to Wave the Flag and Worship False Gods.

  • johnny2times Jul 31, 2012

    So the officer was DOING HER JOB and gets hit by an 80,000 pound vehicle and people are on here bringing up stories that have NOTHING to do with this story...unreal...how are these other stories relevant? People on here have nothing better to do than air out their grevences against the police until you need an officer for something.

    Im sure if it was someones family member, they would be telling the cops to dot every (i) and cross every (T)..thats what they(highway patrol) im sure are doing. Another group of people making no sense yet again...

  • jjsmith1973 Jul 31, 2012

    I know a few cases now that are in wake county. Blood, toxicology report shows nothing and breath test showed nothing. Yet they are still in court fighting the charge which seems cut and dry that it is a false charge but the DA and judge wont make the right decision and dismiss them. One of the cases is over four years old

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