A 911 Call Claiming Transportation Chief Was Driving Erratically Was 'nOt Truthful," Police Say

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Police in West Virginia said Wednesday they have opened a criminal investigation into a 911 call that triggered a traffic stop involving the state highways chief.

Charleston Police Chief Scott Dempsey said in a statement that information relayed to police that Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston was driving erratically on Feb. 20 “does not appear to be accurate or truthful.”

Last week, Dempsey said city officers conducted the traffic stop on southbound Interstate 77 after receiving a call that an off-duty state trooper had witnessed Wriston's vehicle in the city’s east end.

Wednesday's statement did not mention an off-duty trooper. It said that both the lack of evidence that Wriston was driving erratically and a lack of information received from the 911 caller prompted no charges against Wriston, who passed two field sobriety tests. While a preliminary breath test indicated an odor of alcohol, officers believed the test was inconclusive and inconsistent with other tests that Wriston passed, Dempsey said.

No probable cause was found to charge Wriston. But “to ensure safety,” he called someone afterward to drive him, the statement said.

Dempsey said the 911 call has been referred to a local prosecutor’s office. He also said an internal investigation is being conducted into whether officers followed proper procedures during the traffic stop, including body camera policy.

Gov. Jim Justice appointed Wriston as department secretary and commissioner of the state Division of Highways in October 2021 following the retirement of Byrd White.