Chief deputy accused of cover-up in sheriff's alleged DUI - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Chief deputy accused of cover-up in sheriff's alleged DUI

VanBrooker (Left) and Petitgout VanBrooker (Left) and Petitgout
The McDonough Co. Dispatch Center The McDonough Co. Dispatch Center
Shoopman Shoopman
Petitgout is running for sheriff. Petitgout is running for sheriff.

The McDonough County, Illinois, Sheriff's Office has been accused of covering up a reckless, and possibly intoxicated, driving complaint against Sheriff Rick VanBrooker last year. 

Former McDonough County State's Attorney James Hoyle brought the incident to light in a Facebook post on his personal page Monday morning.

Hoyle stated he had heard of the incident from an "anonymous" letter, but didn't originally give it much credit. His post stated he later heard the recording of the call, prompting him to call for the resignations VanBrooker and Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout.  

The sheriff's office written call report states a citizen called at 5:45 p.m. on April 4, 2017.

The transcript of audio released by the county's 911 center is below:

Caller: "I didn't know if this is the proper number to call or not, but this guy just came blazing down my lane and I have a lot of pot holes. I mean he had to be doing 30 and almost hits the back of my truck and I walk up to him to make sure he doesn't get out of the car because I got dogs out. I said 'hi' and he goes 'I'm just getting comfortable.' And his eyes and everything we glazed over. And I asked him 'do you know where you're at?' and he said, 'I'm just getting comfortable. I don't understand the question.' So I didn't know if this was the number to call to make sure he doesn't hurt somebody."

Dispatcher: "Do you know where he is now?"

Caller: "He left my lane and I cannot see... from my lane so I don't know which direction he turned. It was a gray Nissan."

Dispatcher: "What's your address?"

(Caller gives address.) 

(Dispatcher repeats address.) "And you don't know what direction he turned on to?"

Caller: "I'm right at the end of my lane going towards..."

Dispatcher: "Okay, but like I said, you don't know what direction he turned?" 

Caller: "No, because I can't see... from back here, but it's a gray of my eyes is colorblind so I don't see color the greatest, but it's gray or silver."

Dispatcher: "Nissan?" 

Caller: "Nissan. I believe it was an Altima."

Dispatcher: "Okay. And, you couldn't tell if he went towards Macomb?"

Caller: "No. I saw him before, though. I don't know if he was a customer or...I don't know where I've seen him before, but I have seen him before."

Dispatcher: "And, how long was he in your driveway?"

Caller: "He was in the driveway for a good 2-3 minutes. Maybe a hair longer than that because he came barreling...that's the first thing we noticed because we were outside walking the dogs and first thing we knew it sounded like a .22 went off and it was him bottoming out that first pothole of ours. I mean that's how hard he hit it. And, then he came down and there's a pothole on the bridge and by the time he hit the bridge he was probably doing 30 miles-per-hour. Then, he comes barreling around right up to the back of my truck...and I thought for sure he was going to be planting himself inside that truck."

Dispatcher: "Sir can you tell if he was white, black or Hispanic?" 

Caller: "He was tan and I would say more Caucasian than anything else, but he was very tan. He was wearing, and again my color is not very defined, but it was like an orange yellow shirt. He was wearing like a golfing hat." 

Dispatcher: "Like a visor or was it a ball cap?"

Caller: "No it wasn't a ball cap. It was the kind that Mickelson wore."

Dispatcher: "Okay I will get someone to go down and check the area."

The dispatcher then called a patrol to check out the area.

Dispatcher: "He was unsure direction of travel. Possibly 10-55 (intoxicated driver). Gray silver Nissan. Sped into complainant's lane and then left. Male, white driving. Orange shirt. Richard VanBrooker. Gray 2010 Nissan sedan."

Moments later, the dispatcher received a call from Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout, one of three Republican candidates currently trying to replace the retiring VanBrooker.

Petitgout: "What was that?" 

Dispatcher: "What?"

Petitgout: "That you just put out?"

Dispatcher: "The reckless driving?" 

Petitgout: "On the sheriff?" 

Dispatcher: "Umm yeah...Oh! I didn't even..." 

Jessica Shoopman, the 9-1-1 center's director said Petitgout hung up on the dispatcher. She said Petitgout handled the situation unprofessionally. 

"He was calling in and speaking to a dispatcher in a terse tone," said Shoopman. 

Another deputy, Adam Cremer, called the dispatcher later to get more information.

Cremer: "Hey it's Adam. What was the complaint again?"

Dispatcher: "Well I got a call from (complainant) and I'm gonna be completely honest with you I didn't even know. When I read the name it said Richard VanBrooker and it didn't even dawn on me."

Cremer: "I'm just curious what they said." 

Dispatcher: "They said that he pulled into their lane and he said they kept asking if he knew where he (VanBrooker) was. He said 'I'm comfortable here. I'm comfortable here,' and then he sped off. He was speeding through potholes. And then he took off. And he couldn't tell which direction he went. He didn't know who he was and like I said it didn't even dawn on me when I read it back."

Cremer: "And, it came back on a Nissan to Fort Madison?"

Dispatcher: "Yeah."

Cremer: "Where does this (complainant) live?"

(The dispatcher reads the address to Kramer.)

Cremer: "Alright. Thanks." 

Dispatcher: "Sorry about that. Like I said I didn't even know."

Cremer: "You're just doing your job. Don't worry about it. You'll be alright. I was just curious what was going on." 

Dispatcher: "Like I said, he was speeding down his lane and hitting potholes and stuff and when he stopped he kept asking him, 'do you know where you are?' And, he said his eyes were glassy and he kept saying, 'I'm comfortable here.' 

Cremer: "Alright." 

Shoopman said the dispatcher still has her job and handled the call appropriately, not realizing the call involved the sheriff. 

"She took the complaint and put it out over the radio just like she should," said Shoopman.

The dispatch center's call report showed deputies responded, but the sheriff hasn't released an incident report detailing an investigation. The call report shows it was closed with no report, and no indication of a follow-up. 

VanBrooker refused to answer any questions from WGEM News. But, in a written statement, he blamed the driving on a medical condition.

Read VanBrooker's entire statement below:

"I would like to first point out that the recent allegations are strictly political. James Hoyle is supporting Bryan Baca in the upcoming Sheriff’s race and is attempting to use this incident to advance his candidate. It is unfortunate that some candidates cannot stand on their own merits to get elected rather than trying to drag people through the mud. The fact that this incident is almost a year old should speak volumes.

On April 4th 2017 I was driving into Macomb when I experienced the onset of what felt like Vertigo. I had been to my doctor about the problem prior to this incident. I pulled off Jackson Street onto a lane and then into a drive way hoping to let the feeling pass. I did speak with a man who was concerned and I did mention getting comfortable and I also told him that I just needed a minute. I did not explain what was going on since I did not want him calling an ambulance. The feeling passed and I left. I went straight home and I would have been home or very close to home when the call went out. The deputies did what they should have done by searching the area where the call came from before locating me at my house. I had been at my house for a period of time prior to the deputy’s arrival. What was covered up? Nothing.

I have been your Sheriff for over a decade and in that time a lot of good things have happened here at the Sheriff’s Office. During that time I have also made enemies that will seize upon this opportunity make baseless allegations. I will continue to do the job you hired me to do to the best of my ability until I retire later this year."

Chief Deputy Nick Petitgout, who is running to replace the retiring VanBrooker, also would not agree to an interview with WGEM News. He, too, provided a written statement.

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