Vandalia cop disciplined for reporting to shooting range under the influence

A Vandalia police officer was suspended for a month and is on a “last chance agreement” for four years, but will avoid criminal charges, after an internal affairs investigation found he showed up on-duty to a shooting range while under the influence of alcohol, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

In April, the department opened an internal investigation of Officer David Craine after he was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol during a shooting range training session at a Tipp City firing range. Craine was subsequently found to have violated multiple city policies and department rules and regulations.

Vandalia police Chief Kurt Althouse did not authorize Craine to comment to the Dayton Daily News for this story.

Althouse said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News earlier this month that Craine was not exhibiting outright signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech or staggered gait, and the only initial indication of alcohol use was by smell.

In a memorandum about the incident dated May 17, Althouse wrote to City Manager Dan Wendt outlining six alleged violations of five city and department policies. These regulations prohibit all city personnel and police officers from being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while performing city services, carrying or using firearms, or appearing for duty; as well as from using alcohol off duty to the extent that it renders the employee unfit to report for their next regular tour of duty.

The memo also cites Ohio Revised Code language prohibiting using weapons while intoxicated: “No person, while under the influence of alcohol or any drug of abuse, shall carry or use any firearm or dangerous ordinance.”

Althouse wrote to the city manager: “Based on the seriousness of these infractions and multiple rule violations that put Officer Craine and his co-workers at serious risk by reporting to his scheduled range training while under the influence of alcohol, I recommend Officer David Craine receive discipline up to and/or including termination of employment.”

The investigation into the alleged infractions was led by Lt. Brandon Sucher, who had been initially notified of concerns regarding Craine on the morning of April 28 by range officers on site for that day’s training session.

Additional documents obtained via public records request show that toward the beginning of the training session, range officers detected an odor of alcohol on Craine’s person. According to one officer’s written statement, Craine made “several borderline safety violations involving weapon handling,” including on one occasion pointing his rifle in an unsafe direction. The officer did not note any additional safety concerns.

Craine was removed from the training group shortly after and was given a breathalyzer test, which indicated he had a blood alcohol content level of .024%. During questioning, Craine admitted to drinking the day before.

“Did you realize you were under the influence of alcohol while operating a firearm at the range, placing yourself and others in danger?” Sucher asked Craine, according to a April 28 memo.

The memo says Craine responded: “I had no idea. I didn’t feel any effect of alcohol at all. I would have never showed up if that was the case.”

After a May 27 pre-disciplinary hearing, Craine was given a last-chance agreement in lieu of termination. This agreement allows for the officer’s continued employment with the department with several conditions. First, Craine received a 30-day unpaid suspension, which he completed this summer. Additionally, he is subject to random drug testing, and required to seek rehabilitation treatment. The last-chance agreement will remain in effect for four years. Any disciplinary conduct during this time may result in termination, the agreement states.

Ohio law prohibits anyone from handling a firearm while under the influence of alcohol and classifies doing so as a first-degree misdemeanor offense.

Thomas Hagel, acting Dayton Municipal Court judge and law professor at the University of Dayton, said in general the law is vague on what “under the influence” means in the Ohio law pertaining to firearms.

Under the law, breathalyzer tests are meant specifically to apply to operating a vehicle, he said. Generally, someone is considered to be driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of .08%.

Someone can be charged with operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) with a BAC level below .08% based on their actions.

“For example, they could prove that you were driving over the lines and when they stopped you there was a strong smell of alcohol on your breath, glassy eyes, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “All those facts and circumstances could be one way of proving an OVI violation.”

Likewise, whether someone was using a firearm under the influence would likely be measured by “behavior, observations, things like that,” he said.

According to Althouse, although the allegations of misconduct were sustained by the department, no legal action was taken against Craine.

“Administratively, we took action,” he said, citing Craine’s admission to drinking the night prior, paired with his “fairly low” BAC level of .024% — less than a third of the legal driving limit — as grounds for the absence of legal repercussions.

“There was no indication that anyone was in danger while he was on the range or anything like that,” Althouse said. “Based on that, we decided we were going to take administrative actions solely versus going criminal.”

City Manager Dan Wendt expressed support for Craine and the Vandalia Police Department in a statement to Dayton Daily News.

“Our society does and should expect excellence of our public safety professionals. Professionally managed organizations implement corrective disciplinary action to ensure that public servants are accountable and able to achieve the expectations of the community,” Wendt said.

“I would encourage residents go on a ride-along with a police officer to get a glimpse of the stress and danger that they endure throughout their careers. Police officer Craine earned the Distinguished Service Award for saving a man’s life when he was off duty and had no obligation to intervene. This is who he really is.”

This was the second gun-related violation investigated by the Vandalia PD in a four-month period. In December 2021, an officer was found in violation of department policy after he accidentally discharged his firearm while sitting in a marked cruiser parked in the back of the Justice Center parking lot.

The bullet passed through the steering wheel and into the door of the cruiser. No one was injured. The officer was disciplined with one day of unpaid suspension after an internal affairs investigation.

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