Sunday, December 06, 2009

Officer Scott Morton's 'Horseplaying' Causes Accident

Clute Police Department Officer Scott Morton was driving at least 20 mph over the posted limit and getting right behind another Clute officer when he lost control of his car, skidded across three lanes and hit a guardrail, according to police.

A Department of Public Safety report released Friday states Morton, 41, was driving at least 70 mph in the center lane on Highway 288, also known as Highway 332. Morton was approaching Officer Tony Standley, who also was driving a patrol car in the center lane, at 2:47 a.m. Nov. 18.

Before the accident, Morton had been speeding up and getting close to Standley’s bumper before Standley would accelerate to get away, Clute Police Capt. Robin Carlton said.

Both officers were headed to Whataburger, where they were set to meet other officers for a meal. Carlton said the pair were “horseplaying” when the wreck occurred.

As Morton quickly approached again, Standley went to the left lane to get out of the way, Carlton said. Morton also went to the left lane and attempted to pass in the median, the report stated.

“He was closing that gap too quickly,” said DPS Trooper David Wyman, who investigated the wreck and submitted his report to Clute police.

Morton then overcorrected, went into a skid, hit the shoulder and flipped at least twice in the ditch, Wyman said. He was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car 40 to 50 feet.

Morton was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital from the scene with broken ankles, a broken pelvis, collapsed lung and slight bleeding in his brain. He is at home healing from the accident, and The Facts could not reach him for comment.

Morton still is using a wheelchair, but soon will start physical therapy so he can walk, Carlton said.

He will receive no traffic citation, Carlton said. The Department of Public Safety simply puts together the report, and it is Clute’s responsibility to take action, DPS Sgt. David Janak said.

“We will handle it in-house,” Clute Police Chief Mark Wicker said. “We won’t do anything until he’s well and back to 100 percent.”

Punishment options include a letter of reprimand or a few days off without pay, Carlton said.

Video footage and audio of calls to the Clute dispatcher indicate Standley immediately stopped and called for an ambulance. The Facts obtained the video through an open records request.

Standley also was speeding during the accident, Carlton said. Standley will receive no punishment, though it appears the wreck would not have occurred if he hadn’t switched lanes, Wicker said.

The Clute Police Department is investigating Standley’s role in the accident, Wicker said. However, it appears he wasn’t feeling well and simply was ready for his shift to end, he said.

Wicker said he hopes speeding is not common for officers because speeding and getting close to someone’s bumper are inappropriate, he said.

The patrol car Morton was driving, a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria, was totaled, but it already was set to be replaced within the next few weeks, Wicker said. It would have been passed down to a school resource officer, he said.

The department has no plans to buy a new car to replace the vehicle, he said.

Morton worked for the Clute department for three years, then moved to the Richwood Police Department for a year before returning to Clute in June, Carlton said.
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