June 16, 2021
Lawrence, US 92 F
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Kansas Senate majority leader had 0.17 blood alcohol level in wrong-way pursuit

TOPEKA — Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop allegedly reeked of alcohol, struggled to speak or walk, and threatened the Kansas Highway Patrol officer who stopped him in the early hours of March 16 for driving the wrong way on Interstate 70 in Topeka.

The details of the arrest were made available Thursday following the release of his charging affidavit in Shawnee County District Court. Kansas Reflector and other news media filed motions with the court seeking the document’s release.

Suellentrop faces a felony charge for fleeing a police officer, misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving, and traffic infractions for driving the wrong way on a divided highway and speeding.

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KHP Officer Austin Shepley’s report says Suellentrop’s alcohol level was 0.17 grams per 100 milliliters of blood. The legal limit in Kansas is 0.08.

Shepley responded to a call at 12:48 a.m. March 16 of a white SUV driving westbound in the eastbound lanes from Interstate 470 and S.W. Burlingame Road. A TPD officer spotted the driver a few minutes later near I-70 and S.W. Gage.

Shepley began his pursuit near S.W. Gage after seeing a vehicle swerve to narrowly avoid a head-on collision with Suellentrop. During the pursuit, Suellentrop again narrowly missed multiple vehicles while fleeing police at 90 mph.

Suellentrop slowed to 70 mph while approaching the viaduct and its steep curve in downtown Topeka. On the curve, he narrowly missed an oncoming box truck. The officer performed a tactical maneuver at the S.E. 4th Street bridge to force Suellentrop to stop.

“As I approached the driver, he had his left hand out the window and looked back at me with a confused, frightened, blank stare,” Shepley said. “He was not registering my commands or responding to them.”

With the help of a Topeka police officer, Shepley removed Suellentrop from the vehicle and placed him under arrest. They didn’t perform a field sobriety test because of safety concerns.

“Sitting inside the vehicle with Suellentrop, I could smell a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his person,” Shepley said. “I also noticed his eyes were watery, droopy, and he had bloodshot eyes. While speaking with him, I was not able to understand what he was saying as he was mumbling words with slurred speech.”

Shepley initially took Suellentrop to the Docking State Office Building for a breath test. Suellentrop “had trouble with his motor skills” while exiting the officer’s vehicle, lost his balance and almost fell. Inside, Suellentrop refused to take a breath sample, saying, “I don’t feel the need to do so.”

Suellentrop called the officer “donut boy” and complained this was “all for going the wrong way.”

After getting a warrant from a judge, Shepley took Suellentrop to Stormont Vail Hospital for a blood draw.

“While the phlebotomist was administering the blood kit, Gene Suellentop demeanor becoming slightly aggressive in his tone, he made reference to physically going up against me,” Shepley said. “He looked me up and down, stating he played state sports competitively in high school. He stated he could ‘take me.’ ”

The blood test was taken at 3:32 a.m., several hours after the traffic stop.

Suellentrop transferred his duties as the majority leader while working to resolve his legal matters. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 3.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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