A South Carolina Highway Patrol officer is off the job after being arrested under bizarre circumstances on Wednesday.
Officials say trooper Leslie C. Hoover was pulled over on John Dodd Road in Spartanburg County under suspicion of DUI. This came after a motorist called 911 to report Hoover’s personal vehicle, an Isuzu Rodeo, swerving erratically on Insterstate 26 about 6:40pm in heavy rush hour traffic. The SC Department of Public Safety says Hoover refused a breathalyzer and failed a field sobriety test. He was charged with driving under the influence.
Thursday morning, Hoover appeared before a magistrate and was released on his own recognizance. But his appearance when he entered the jail has stirred more discussion than his legal troubles.
A high-ranking official who wished to remain anonymous tells News Channel 7 he saw Hoover brought into the jail “wearing a red dress”. He says Hoover was also wearing a bra and was seen “adjusting his bra” while he waited to be processed. And he says the shamed trooper had a pair of thong panties “in his possession”.
That would explain statements made by the man who made the 911 call on the interstate. The driver, who asked not to be identified, said Hoover “appeared to be wearing a blonde wig” when he came flying past him near exit 22. On a recording of his 911 call - which was obtained by News Channel 7 - the man refers to Hoover as “she” several times.
“Yes, I’m on interstate 26 heading west at exit 22 and there is a red, I think it’s an Isuzu or a Rodeo, and she - I think it’s a she - is weaving all over the road,“ says the caller on the 911 tape.Dispatcher: “Do you think she’s intoxicated or….?“Caller: “I can’t tell but she is weaving all over the road!“. Sid Gaulden, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, says Hoover is from Lexington County and was on his personal time when he was arrested. He says Hoover was terminated Thursday morning. He had worked for the Highway Patrol for 30 years. He says Hoover retired in 2000 but came back to work in 2002 as a member of the patrol’s Insurance Enforcement Team. The team works with the Department of Motor Vehicles to seize license plates from car owners who have allowed their insurance coverage to lapse.
“They are part-time employees but they have the same authority to conduct traffic stops and issue citations as a full-time state trooper,“ says Gaulden. He says Hoover did not have any disciplanary actions against him as a patrol officer from 1976 to 2000. But after he came back in 2002, he had to attend one counseling session for “negligent operation of a state vehicle”. Gaulden says that stemmed from an incident in which Hoover rear-ended a civilian’s vehicle. He says “there was no indication alcohol was a factor” in that crash.
The man who called 911 raises another interesting issue: he says another state trooper could have stopped Hoover before he called 911 but did not pull him over. He says as Hoover’s vehicle swerved all over the road near exit 22, a state trooper in an SUV pulled “right up behind” Hoover and followed him. He says at the time, Hoover’s vehicle was straddling the divided white line that separates lanes.
“I really thought (the trooper) was going to pull him over because he was clearly weaving,“ says the caller. “But he just went right around him and took off real fast like he was in a hurry.“
He says as the trooper was going around Hoover’s vehicle, Hoover swerved off the shoulder of the interstate.
“I thought that would have been obvious enough for the trooper to notice that but I guess he didn’t,“ says the man. He says minutes later, after he saw Hoover almost collide with several vehicles, he picked up his cell phone and dialed 911.
We informed Department of Public Safety of the man’s statement about the trooper failing to pull over Hoover. Gaulden said they were not aware of the scenario “but we will investigate it fully” to see if it was indeed a state trooper who pulled up behind Hoover and if so, why they opted not to pull him over.
Click on the video tab to see Chris Cato’s story on the arrest and audio of the 911 call.