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Published: Tuesday, 12/31/2013

Arbitrator gives job back to Ohio trooper fired after death of drunken motorist

BY LAURA ARENSCHIELD
COLUMBUS DISPATCH

DELAWARE, Ohio — A State Highway Patrol trooper who was fired after failing to arrest a drunken driver during a stop on I-71 will get his job back, an arbitrator has ruled.

The trooper, Sean Carpenter, also will be paid for part of the time he was out of work.

Carpenter, 39, was fired in April for conduct unbecoming an officer and for failing to perform his duty after a July, 2012, incident involving a drunken driver in Delaware County.

Carpenter and two Delaware County deputy sheriffs found the driver, Uriel Juarez Popoca, on July 28 on an I-71 median near the Rts. 36/37 interchange.

Mr. Popoca, 22, spoke Spanish and understood little English. The officers can be heard making fun of his speech in footage from their dashboard cameras.

The officers took Mr. Popoca to a Taco Bell on Rts. 36/37, joking that someone there would understand him. Mr. Popoca left the restaurant shortly after being dropped there and was struck and killed by a passing driver.

Carpenter was convicted of being derelict in his duty because he did not arrest the man; an appellate court threw out his conviction in August, ruling that Carpenter was not responsible for Mr. Popoca because the two deputies were in charge of the scene.

Staff Lt. Anne Ralston said the patrol has not determined when Carpenter will return to work.

According to the arbitration award, Carpenter will lose six months’ pay but will be paid for at least two of the months that he was out of work. Carpenter, who had been assigned to the Delaware post, earned $56,403 a year before he was fired.

The two deputies involved in Mr. Popoca’s case — Derek Beggs and Christopher Hughes — were fired from the Delaware County sheriff’s office in February. Beggs also was convicted of dereliction of duty; Hughes was convicted of failing to aid a law-enforcement officer. The same appellate court upheld Beggs’ conviction.

Tracy Whited, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the office is finishing negotiations with the two former deputies but that neither will get his job back. Whited said the office is working on a settlement agreement with the former deputies, but the amount has not been set.



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