Local News

Troopers off patrol after Raleigh couple's mistreatment claims

Posted June 30, 2011 3:43 p.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2011 8:02 p.m. EDT

— Two state Highway Patrol troopers were placed on administrative duty Thursday after a Raleigh woman's claim that she was mistreated and falsely arrested by a state trooper in Wilmington.

Gina Tessener's husband, Hoyt Tessener, sent a letter last week to Gov. Bev Perdue and more than two dozen other state and local officials on Friday complaining about his wife's treatment during a traffic stop.

Gina Tessener said Senior Trooper Edward Wyrick pulled her over after she left a gala on June 21 and arrested her on a driving while impaired charge despite the fact that she registered a 0.00 reading on two separate alcohol breath tests.

She said she believes Wyrick also arranged to have her husband, who was following her, pulled over by another trooper.

“The policy of this administration is zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior," Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "The Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety and the Colonel of the Highway Patrol will take appropriate action upon completion of their investigation.”

Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said Thursday that Highway Patrol Commander Col. Michael Gilchrist ordered the internal review immediately upon receiving the letter Monday.

Wyrick and Trooper Andrew Smith, who are assigned to the Highway Patrol's Wilmington office, were off work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Gordon said. Upon reporting to work Thursday morning, he said, they were instructed to go to Raleigh for questioning.

Smith has been with the agency since 2009; Wyrick since 2006.

The Highway Patrol also released recordings of radio transmissions that confirm Wyrick took Tessener to the Wrightsville Beach Police Department for an alcohol breath test.

The Town of Wrightsville Beach also released security video of the Tesseners at the police station, as well as Wyrick administering two breath tests.

"We have been rapidly going through the investigation. Although it's been fast and it's been comprehensive in detail, we're still in the process of investigating," Gordon said.

"Anytime we get any kind of allegation or complaint, the Highway Patrol takes those seriously, and this complaint is just as serious as any other complaint we get," he added.

The Highway Patrol's image has been plagued in recent years by a number of high-profile cases involving state troopers who have resigned, been fired or been disciplined for inappropriate or questionable conduct, including profiling, drunken driving, animal abuse, sex on duty and inappropriate text messages.

In wake of the incidents, Perdue called for restructuring the agency and issued the zero-tolerance policy for trooper misconduct, requiring ethics training for all troopers, in addition to them pledging to follow a code of conduct.