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Updated: 5:41 p.m. Monday, June 2, 2014 | Posted: 8:28 p.m. Friday, May 30, 2014

Police officer fired for failing to charge firefighter with DUI

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Travis Salyer photo
Travis Salyer
Brandon Lee photo
Brandon Lee

By Breaking News Staff and Jessica Heffner

DAYTON —

A Dayton police officer was recently fired for failing to charge a firefighter for driving while intoxicated after the firefighter struck several cars when he drove the wrong way on U.S. 35 last fall.

Officer Travis Salyer was terminated on May 19. He'd been with the department for seven years.

This week, the newspaper obtained an exclusive copy of a police administrative investigation report regarding Salyer's firing. The document cites multiple violations in the department's code of conduct stemming from the arrest of Dayton firefighter Brandon Lee on Aug. 28, 2013.

Lee's pickup truck was damaged and missing a tire on the side of U.S. 35 East when Officer Erica Cash arrived at the scene. Further up the road, she found several cars that were damaged, and the drivers told her a truck matching the description of the one Lee was driving was at fault. Salyer was called to the scene to assist Cash, and asked to get a witness statement from Lee, according to the report. A breathalyzer test administered hours after the accident revealed that Lee's blood alcohol level was .142. The legal limit is .08 percent.

Salyer told police investigators he recognized Lee as a Dayton firefighter. When he brought Lee to the back of his cruiser, his patrol vehicle's dash camera mic recorded him asking Lee if he is a city employee. Lee answered yes, and indicated he worked for the fire department's station 11.

While Salyer noted in his incident report that there was a "slight odor of alcohol" on Lee during the nearly two hours he was in his cruiser, the officer asked Lee very few questions about the accident, as captured by his dashboard camera. Also, Salyer never asked Lee if he had been drinking. He also failed to administer a field sobriety test, citing in his report that the conditions were too hazardous on the highway. However, Sgt. Jon Zimmerman, who investigated the handling of the incident, noted there were no adverse conditions on the roadway and traffic as seen on the cruiser cam was minimal.

Also, when Cash radioed Salyer to ask if there was anything she needed to know about the suspect, he replied "negative," failing to indicate Lee was a firefighter and that he may be intoxicated, according to the report.

Once Cash returned to where Salyer was parked to charge Lee, Salyer walked up to her cruiser. Camera footage captured that he had a piece of paper in his hand at the time. According to a report by Cash, the paper said Lee was a firefighter and he was "hammered." When asked about the note, Salyer said he wrote "Intox, Dayton Firefighter," and possibly indicated Lee was in a relationship with a sergeant's daughter. He did not have a copy of the original note. Cash's dashboard camera did not record any conversations between the two officers regarding Lee possibly being intoxicated.

After reading the note, Cash reportedly turned off her cruiser's dash cam and called her supervisor, who told her Lee should be transported to the safety building for an OVI breathalyzer chemical test. The test has to be done within two hours of making contact with the suspect. Salyer transported Lee to the police station downtown, where the breathalyzer test was administered. He blew a .142. However, a statement officers were required to read to Lee before administering the OVI test was not completed. By that time, the window for administering the chemical test had expired, according to the administrative report.

Lee was charged with hit-skip for failing to stop at the scene of an accident and OVI. When Salyer met with City of Dayton prosecutors to discuss the case, he indicated there was a strong odor of alcohol about Lee and he'd noticed vomit inside the truck. When a prosecutor asked Salyer why he omitted that information from his original report, Salyer said he became aware of Lee's position as a firefighter and "was concerned if an OVI charge was pursued, there may be some sort of reprisal," according to the report.

On Dec. 6, prosecutors told police investigators the OVI charges against Lee had to be dropped due to concerns about Salyer's report and omission of facts as well as the lack of field sobriety tests completed.

Some of the violations found against Salyer through the internal investigation included that he failed to collect and preserve evidence, conduct of an unprofessional manner, neglect of duty and that he was not truthful while conducting official police business.

Attempts to reach Salyer Friday for comment were unsuccessful. Dayton police Asst. Chief Robert Chabali declined to comment, saying that the incident report "speaks for itself."

Lee was convicted of hit-skip in April and sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to pay a $50 fine. Following a disciplinary hearing, he was suspended from his firefighting position for 30 days, effective May 19, the same day Salyer was fired. This is the third time Lee has been suspended since joining the Dayton fire department in March 2011. He was also arrested on an OVI charge in Vandalia in January 2013, but that case was dismissed, according to court records.

Dayton fire Chief Jeffrey Payne said he takes these sort of cases "very seriously" and disciplines employees in the appropriate manner.

"If they fail to change the behavior, then the amount of disciplinary action will increase up to and including termination," he said.

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