The power-tripping cop whose ranting at a driver at a DUI checkpoint has been seen by millions in an Internet video already has a colorful history with the sheriff’s department that includes facing termination for failing to appear in court to testify, according to a new report.
WSMV-TV in Nashville sent investigative reporter Nancy Amons into action when the video of Rutherford County Sheriff’s Deputy A.J. Ross turned into an Internet sensation.
Millions of people have now seen him order a driver at a DUI checkpoint to lower his window and then shout when the window went down only a few inches. The video also shows the officers directing a dog to jump at the driver’s car, which caused damage to the vehicle.
The student alleged he was illegally detained by the officer, as he was violating no law and had no obligation to answer questions.
WSMV reported that Ross had been targeted by prior complaints over his work with the department. For example, he was on the force during 2002-2004 but resigned suddenly just as he was facing termination for failing to show up for court appearances in a number of DUI cases.
The report said he also failed to appear before a grand jury.
Then, the report said, he hit another vehicle with his personal pickup truck in 2003. He then “lied” about having personal insurance.
Authorities in Tennessee say they are reviewing the video, the actions of the officer who later rejoined the force and possibly video that may have been recorded by the sheriff’s office to determine whether action will be taken.
Axl David, of the state’s Libertarian Party, told the station that his email and telephone have been flooded with comments since the incident was exposed on YouTube.
The station also interviewed a legal expert who said the driver, Chris Kalbaugh, actually was uncooperative with the officer, so the officer should have escalated the incident.
The incident developed at a DUI checkpoint July 4. Kalbaugh noted that at no time during his encounter with officers did anyone ask him whether he had been drinking.
Instead, he was berated by the officer, who declined to answer questions from the driver about whether he was being detained.
According to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, the video was set up by the driver, who ultimately faced no charges at the checkpoint.
David said Kalbaugh, a 21-year-old junior from Middle Tennessee State University, told him of his plans.
David told the Journal that Kalbaugh said he was going to “exercise his rights” and record the results on video.
Kalbaugh said he was careful to be certain he broke no laws and tried to be respectful.
“The officers would not let me leave, but they would not answer if I was being detained.”
“He’s perfectly innocent, and he knows his rights. He knows what the Constitution says,” the officer admitted while out of Kalbaugh’s presence. “He’s got air fresheners under the seat.”
Then a flashlight from another officer zeroes in on the camera.
“It’s running,” is heard.
Then the camera is turned away from the officers into the darkness, followed by sounds of fumbling around in the car, something being torn or something being shifted.
Kalbaugh said: “I was yelled at, bossed around, my car ransacked without my consent, had my rights taken away from me, all because of my window. All while not being detained. I broke no laws. Officer Ross told me that my constitutional rights did not matter at checkpoints.”
Gabriel Fancher, secretary for the Rutherford County Republican Party, said the incident in the video is “a tough one.”
“I realize that these road blocks help keep drunk drivers off the roads, and illegal searches like the one witnessed in the video are bound to turn up illegal drugs every now and then, but this is an example of soft tyranny,” Fancher told DNJ. “Our founders put in place rules and laws to limit these offenses, but over time we have slowly given up these rights – sometimes without even realizing it, because most people are good people and will mind a police officer when they tell us to do something.”
“Our trust in the government is being damaged at all levels,” Fancher added.
Such incidents are not restricted to Tennessee. There also was a recent incident at another DUI checkpoint at Lake Tahoe:
There also was a conversation by officers who were refused permission to search a vehicle they wanted to look into: