A Slate Belt police chief crashed his pickup truck into a house, and now the DA is investigating
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
Jan. 23--Michael Drosnock didn't hear a thing.
The retired machinist worked the late shift for years and became accustomed to using ear plugs to block out daytime noise while he slept. But when he woke on the morning of Jan. 6 to check on his Plainfield Township property after a dusting of snow, he was shocked.
The side of his home bordering Kesslerville Road was a disaster. A pair of weeping rosebud shrubs and a dwarf Japanese maple were uprooted, a line of flowerbeds, a makeshift creek and a decorative water pump were destroyed and a stone walkway was wrecked. A pipe leading to Drosnock's pellet stove that sits in his den was sheared off.
"My first thought was, you've got to be kidding me," Drosnock said. "I'm just looking at the landscaping that I busted my hump on a few years ago and it's just a wreck."
Drosnock would learn that Scott Miller, the police chief in Washington Township, Northampton County, hit his house early Jan. 6 in his personal pickup truck, according to Slate Belt Regional police. And now, Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck has opened an investigation into the crash to sort out "differing stories" in the case.
Officers responded to the scene at 1:30 a.m. after the tow truck driver called police, according to Slate Belt Lt. Jonathon Hoadley. Miller told police he lost control of his truck on the snowy roads, Hoadley said.
Hoadley declined to discuss whether Miller was subjected to a field sobriety test at the scene, explaining that this is part of what the district attorney's office is investigating.
Houck also said he couldn't elaborate because it's an active investigation.
"Until we get all the facts, I don't want to speculate," Houck said. "There just seemed to be a lot of differing stories out there about this. I want to find out what the heck happened and see if there was anything criminal in nature."
Hoadley said the officers who responded to the crash were wearing body cameras and that footage has been turned over to the district attorney's office.
Drosnock said he learned who was driving the truck from police after pressing them for details when debris he recovered on his property indicated the driver is a police officer. He went to the Slate Belt Regional Police Department in person to get answers.
"I was fuming and so I don't remember everything I said, but one of the first things I asked was whether they gave him a sobriety test and they told me no. I said are you [expletive] kidding me?" Drosnock said.
When he worked as a machinist, Drosnock said, employees involved in any accident were immediately tested for drugs and alcohol. He said he was baffled over how a police officer involved in a crash, even off-duty, would not be held to such a standard.
"I think it should just be the policy," Drosnock said of a sobriety test after a wreck.
The homeowner said Miller stopped by at one point in a marked Washington Township police cruiser to collect some more of his belongings scattered on the property after the crash. Miller apologized, which Drosnock said he appreciated. But it won't help repair his landscaping, something he's hoping his insurance will cover.
Miller could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A member of the district attorney's office already visited Drosnock's home, he said, and took photos of the damage. He's hopeful its involvement will bring a level of accountability to the situation.
Hoadley and Houck are counting on the same thing.
"We're very happy [the district attorney is] taking it on," Hoadley said. "We want to show transparency here."
If the Slate Belt officers should have acted differently, Hoadley said, the DA's office will be clear in communicating as much.
For Houck, the investigation is necessary to demonstrate fairness to the community.
"We're just trying to be transparent and settle everybody down," Houck said. "We want to let them know that there's an objective set of eyes taking a look at this."
Morning Call reporter Sarah M. Wojcik can be reached at 610-778-2283 or [email protected].
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