Dallas police defend DWI arrest of GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen West’s wife as her lawyer questions their evidence
An affidavit obtained by The Texas Tribune shows Angela Graham-West showed signs of intoxication in some — but not all — portions of a field sobriety test. Her lawyer attributes some issues to a previous brain aneurysm Graham-West suffered behind her right eye.
Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
Dallas police on Monday defended their arrest of Angela Graham-West, Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen West’s wife, for allegedly driving while intoxicated.
At a press conference, police Chief Edgardo Garcia showed video of her Friday traffic stop, field sobriety test and arrest. He gave few details when asked about what portions of the field sobriety test Graham-West might have failed.
But information about police suspicions were detailed in an arrest warrant affidavit that The Texas Tribune obtained from Graham-West’s lawyer, who said his client had not been drinking and questioned the strength of the officer’s evidence.
Toxicology results from a blood test are pending. Garcia said results from a Breathalyzer test conducted during the traffic stop were inconclusive.
The affidavit that attorney Todd Shapiro provided to the Tribune claims that Graham-West, 61, showed signs of intoxication inportions of the field sobriety test.
In an interview, Shapiro said a previous brain aneurysm behind her right eye contributed to some issues with the field sobriety test.
“She told the officer about it and there’s no mention anywhere in the ... probable cause affidavit that this woman had some health issues that could affect her performance or mask themselves as signs of intoxication,” Shapiro said.
West previously told the Tribune that his wife had “no issues” with field sobriety or breathalyzer tests.
Garcia said the department released the footage because West had painted a different picture than what occurred, comments he said were a “mischaracterization.”
“We’re not trying to try this DWI arrest in the media,” Garcia said. “Mrs. West is entitled to due process.”
Graham-West was driving home with her 3-month-old grandson from a dinner with a close friend at P.F. Chang’s — where she had Chilean sea bass and lemonade, according to the affidavit and a photo of a receipt West provided to the Tribune — when a police officer pulled her over on West Northwest Highway in Dallas. The video released Monday shows a vehicle veering into the right-hand shoulder before an officer pulled over the driver.
The video shows Graham-West at first stopped in the middle lane of the highway when the officer told her to move to a side street. She then pulled over to the far right lane, and the officer told her again to move to a side street.
According to the probable cause affidavit that Shapiro provided to the Tribune, the officer approached the vehicle and “smelled the scent of alcohol coming from within the car” and said Graham-West’s eyes were bloodshot. The officer observed that Graham-West’s reaction times were delayed and she seemed confused.
It further pointed to the appearance of Graham-West’s clothing and hair as signs of possible intoxication, which Shapiro called “shaky” evidence.
The affidavit says Graham-West attributed the way she was driving to her listening to her GPS. It also said Graham-West was on the phone with an unknown person.
Officers then conducted three field sobriety tests, in which sheshowed signs of intoxication in two, according to the affidavit. In the first test, one of six clues that someone could be intoxicated were observed. In the second test, two of eight clues were observed. Two of four clues were observed in the third test. Failure isconsidered two or more clues, Shapiro said.
“Normally ... you only see four out of six [clues observed] and six out of six. I’ve been doing this for 21 years. I’ve never seen one out of six [clues observed] written on a police report,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro attributed the failures in the field sobriety test to a brain aneurysm that Graham-West had experienced behind her right eye a few years ago.
When police asked her to conduct a Breathalyzer test, she questioned why she needed to take one. But video shows Graham-West blowing multiple times on the Breathalyzer. Garcia said the Breathalyzer results were inconclusive because it was not done properly. Afterward, the video shows she was put under arrest and she did not resist.
The affidavit also says Graham-West initially consented to a blood test and went to Parkland Hospital with the police officer, but then withdrew consent when she arrived and asked for her lawyer. The officer then got a warrant to draw blood.
“Based on the totality of the circumstances, I believe the officer believed she had probable cause to think the individual was driving while intoxicated,” Garcia said at the press conference.
Shapiro also said Graham-West went and got a five-panel, instant urinalysis test Monday morning that also included an alcohol test. He said it showed zero presence of drugs or alcohol. The alcohol test traces back up to 80 hours, Shapiro said.
The arrest drew attention Saturday when West said in his Instagram video from Dallas County jail that he had been in Waco having dinner with Ted Nugent when he returned to Dallas to find his wife had been arrested.
He said in the video that he had spoken with people who had dinner with his wife and grandson who told him she only had water and lemonade. The photo of the restaurant receipt that West provided to the Tribune shows a lemonade but lists no alcoholic beverages.
In the video, West said he was especially angry that his grandson was left on the side of the road with two police officers while other officers took his wife to jail. The officers stayed with the child until his parents arrived to pick him up.
Mike Mata, the president of the Dallas Police Association, defended the officer's actions on The Mark Davis Show on 660 AM in Dallas and criticized West for his calls to remove the officer from the department.
"Lt. Col. West thinks that he is special, that he should get certain treatments that every other citizen doesn’t get," Mata added. "Is it because he’s a politician? Is it because he’s running for governor? Well that’s not how it goes. We believe in fair and equal treatment under the law."
Mata also said the officers went beyond normal policies to contact West’s family to pick up his grandson. Department policy, he said, usually requires officers to call Child Protective Services when a driver is arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated with a child under 15 years old in the car.
In response to Mata’s comments, West told the Tribune this incident was “not normal.”
"I appreciate the gentleman who’s speaking up for the police association, but I’m speaking up for the honor of my wife, I’m speaking up for the honor of my family and I’m also speaking up to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else in Dallas,” West said.
Join us Sept. 20-25 at the 2021 Texas Tribune Festival. Tickets are on sale now for this multi-day celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news, curated by The Texas Tribune’s award-winning journalists. Learn more.
Quality journalism doesn't come free
Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.