Detroit police official charged with drunken driving in crash

Detroit Police officer Johnny Thomas, commander of the Third Precinct, is arraigned by video feed on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge Wednesday, January 30, 2019. He was arrested early Saturday morning by officers from his own precinct.

A decorated veteran commander of the Detroit Police Department was arraigned Wednesday on charges of drinking and driving and causing an injury accident last week in Detroit's medical center area.

 Cmdr. Johnny Thomas was arraigned via video and formally charged with operating while impaired/operating with a high BAC above .17, a 180-day misdemeanor. Thomas also was charged with possession of a firearm while under the influence, a 93-day misdemeanor. He turned himself in to face the charges and was given a $5,000, 10 percent bond. 

Thomas, who is commander of the Detroit Police Department's Third Precinct, is scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 6.

The formal reading of the charges against Thomas were waived at the request of Longstreet. A not-guilty plea was entered on Thomas' behalf.

Thomas' defense attorney Charles Longstreet II asked for a personal bond, citing his client's long list of professional and educational achievement but 36th District Court  Magistrate Laura Echartea said the case was too serious to grant that request.

Longstreet said weather conditions may have played a role in the accident, but  Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Barbara Lanning said road conditions were not that bad in the area when the crash occurred.

Lanning asked the magistrate to order Thomas to undergo random alcohol testing or wear an alcohol tether.

"The reason for this was that this was a traffic accident caused by Mr. Thomas at 12:40 in the morning," said Lanning, citing blood alcohol tests done on the police commander.

Echartea denied the request but ordered Thomas, who is on restricted duties with the Detroit Police Department, not to drink and drive and also not possess a firearm during the duration of the case. 

The magistrate said Thomas' esteemed record with the Detroit Police Department did not make up for what he's accused of doing last week.

"I applaud him on that but... this was drinking and driving  .17," Echartea said. "This is not a regular drinking and driving (case). There was an accident."

Thomas was arrested following the crash near the Detroit Medical Center early Saturday morning by officers from his own precinct. He allegedly slammed his department-issued vehicle into a vehicle that was sitting at a red light at the intersection of Mack Avenue and St. Antoine.

Three vehicles were involved in the crash, police said. Thomas allegedly hit a truck driven by a 48-year-old man, causing it to hit a third car that left the scene before police officers arrived.

The truck driver was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital for treatment of minor injuries and released hours later, police said.

Thomas, who formerly ran the department's Professional Standards, or internal affairs section, reportedly had a blood-alcohol content of .18 at the scene — more than twice the legal limit and considered "super drunk" in Michigan.

Detroit police chief James Craig said Monday he was "disappointed" with Thomas. who was considered a rising star in the police department before his arrest.

George Hunter contributed.

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