01/07/2007

3 Penn. officers in DUI dustup; probe focuses on special treatment

By Torsten Ove
Copyright 2007 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Three police officers from different departments are in varying degrees of trouble following a dispute rooted in the blue code -- the age-old tradition of cops covering for one another.

One is an Allegheny County officer, Tobias Yuhouse, charged with drunken driving on New Year's morning in Versailles, after which police said he was "belligerent and profane."

Another is his relative, veteran Wilkinsburg Officer Doug Yuhouse, accused of making threats on a recorded line and in person against the arresting officer.

The third is Versailles Patrolman Fred Hill, who initially tried to let the county officer go as a courtesy to a colleague in blue.

Now the jobs of the Yuhouses could be in jeopardy and Officer Hill is likely to face some kind of discipline.

"He may get reprimanded over that," said his chief, William Kruczek. "If it was you, would you have gotten the same courtesy? It's not something that we do."

Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman and Mayor John Thompson didn't return messages about the status of Doug Yuhouse, who is identified in an affidavit as Tobias Yuhouse's brother but may actually be his uncle.

Chief Kruczek said yesterday that Chief Coleman told him that she was "very concerned" about the allegations against Doug Yuhouse and would review the taped phone calls.

Chief Kruczek said the evidence, which also includes a personal threat Doug Yuhouse is accused of making before several uniformed officers, might be referred to the district attorney's office.

County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said he is conducting an internal investigation of his officer's alleged conduct but hasn't determined whether he will take disciplinary action now or wait until the case progresses.

Officer Hill said he was on patrol when he saw a car driving in the middle of Walnut Avenue at 3:07 a.m.

After turning around and following, Officer Hill said he saw the car drifting from lane to lane and pulled it over.

When he approached the car, he said in his report, "I smelled an overwhelming odor of alcohol." He said Officer Yuhouse had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and was "immediately profane and hostile."

Officer Hill said Officer Yuhouse demanded to know why he was pulled over and said he was a county police officer, showing his police identification to Officer Hill and a McKeesport officer who was assisting him.

When Officer Hill said he would arrange for the officer to get a ride home and not charge him, he said Officer Yuhouse "continued to be very belligerent" and complained that he was always being "harassed" by police and "always being pulled over."

Officer Hill contacted a county police supervisor, Officer Perry Vahaly, who went to the scene to drive Officer Yuhouse home. Officer Hill said he explained that he was giving Officer Yuhouse a "huge break" in not arresting him.

But when Officer Yuhouse continued to be belligerent, he said, he decided to place him under arrest and administer field sobriety tests. When Officer Yuhouse refused to cooperate, according to the report, Officer Hill and Officer Vahaly handcuffed him and put him in a Versailles patrol car.

"Defendant was yelling and banging his head off the partition," Officer Hill wrote.

Officer Hill then drove Officer Yuhouse to UPMC McKeesport for a blood test. At the hospital, he said, Officer Yuhouse apologized and asked that the incident be forgotten.

"[He] was pleading that he will lose his job," wrote Officer Hill. "I advised the defendant I tried to cut him a break and he refused it."

Eventually Officer Yuhouse was driven home.

Officer Hill said he later was advised by his dispatcher that Doug Yuhouse, whom he said was Tobias' brother, had called dispatch to threaten him.

In the recorded call, he said Doug Yuhouse told him to meet him on the Boston Bridge, where he planned to retrieve his brother's keys, "and that I better bring somebody with me."

When the officers met later in a Dollar General parking lot, according to the report, Doug Yuhouse approached Officer Hill with clenched fists, pointed at him and said, "You'll be sorry, [expletive]." Several other officers were present in uniform when that happened.

Officer Hill also said Doug Yuhouse told him that in 14 years as a police officer he had never given another officer a citation.

Tobias Yuhouse is charged with drunken driving and numerous motor vehicle violations.

 

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