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January 18, 2010
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Ind. officer who released driver 'made a valid decision'

The officer didn't check his driving record, and the suspect later struck a school bus

Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — The Anderson police officer who let a man drive away without checking his driving record Tuesday just before the man struck a school bus made a valid decision, according to national and state experts.

“There are extenuating circumstances in this case; I would say the officer was right,” said Andy Mournighan, the director of governmental affairs at the National Association of Police Organizations.

Officer Mark Dawson, a seasoned Anderson officer, responded to a call that a man was passed out in a car at 22nd and Locust streets at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. After paramedics and the officer assessed Shane T. Owens, 28, Dawson released him. Minutes later, Owens drove head-on into a school bus.

Later, officers learned that Owens’ driver’s license had been suspended, he had a warrant in Henry County and marijuana in the vehicle. Anderson Police Department has not responded to questions about how long the officer was on the scene and details about any field tests performed.

However, experts say Dawson acted within officer discretionary procedures that allow officers to factor in what they see and hear at a scene, and determine whether further investigation is needed. It’s the same protocol that allows officers to give warnings during traffic stops.

Read full story: Experts: APD officer was within norms

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