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Jessie Thornton, a 64-year-old retired firefighter, was arrested and charged with drunk driving even though a Breathalyzer test showed his blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.00.
The incident occurred around 11:00 p.m. in Surprise, Ariz. Thornton was driving home when he was pulled over by a police officer. The officer alleged that Thornton has swerved into the wrong lane and then accused him of drunk driving.
"He (the officer) walked up, and he said, 'I can tell you're driving drunk by looking in your eyes.' I take my glasses off and he says, 'You've got bloodshot eyes.' I said, 'I've been swimming at LA Fitness,' and he says, 'I think you're DUI,'" Thornton told ABC15.com.
"He (the officer) goes, 'Well, we're going to do a sobriety test.' I said, 'OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.' At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, 'Oh, sorry,' and asked the other officer if he was doing it right," Thornton added.
He was handcuffed and forced to sit on the curb, which he says caused him pain because of his knees and hip.
"I couldn't even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground. Then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up 'cause my hip hurt, she told me to stop whining," Thornton said.
Eventually, he was taken back to police headquarters and administered a Breathalyzer test. Police documents showed that he registered a 0.000, proving that he was completely sober. A drug recognition expert was called to examine Thornton just to make sure that he was, in fact, sober.
"After he did all the tests, he says, 'I would never have arrested you. You show no signs of impairment,'" Thornton revealed. "I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something. On top of that, my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn't get it until Monday."
Thornton has hired an attorney and plans to sue the City of Surprise for damages and unlawful arrest. He is seeking $500,000 in damages.
"This is not the way American citizens out to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter," attorney Marc Victor said.
"Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers. I have nothing against police officers; this just wasn't right," Thornton explained. "I just don't want any of this to happen to somebody else."