Jackson County

Moss Point police chief given ride home after reckless-driving stop

Pascagoula police gave Moss Point Police Chief Art McClung a ride home after officers clocked him going 109 mph in a city vehicle, and McClung told them he’d had “at least three vodkas.”

McClung was pulled over and questioned by Pascagoula police July 29, but was not cited or arrested. No report was written about the stop.

In an interview, Pascagoula Police Chief Kenny Johnson said he directed officers to drive McClung home. He said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution, because there had been some alcohol consumed.”

Johnson said he talked on the phone with McClung at the time of the incident and “the guy sounded fine to me.”

That observation differs from what officers on the scene can be heard saying to each other at the time. The Sun Herald filed a public-records request with Pascagoula police this month to review video and audio recordings, dispatch-radio traffic and other information on the stop.

In one of the videos, officers on the scene are heard saying, “He’s obviously DUI.” Also, officers can be heard saying: “He’s toast. He knows it, too. You could tell from the time we walked up.”

Another police officer in the audio and videos talks about McClung’s actions.

“109, he was jacked up,” the officer says. “You hear me? 109. 109. He’s jacked up.”

The initial stop

According to the information reviewed by the Sun Herald and the audio discussion between officers on the scene, Pascagoula patrolman David Cole radioed dispatch at 7:30 p.m. to report he was responding to a Signal 28, police code for reckless driving.

McClung was driving a city-issued SUV with blue lights when Cole started following him in a 55-mph zone on U.S. 90 on a long stretch between Gautier and the Pascagoula high-rise bridge.

“He went all the way across (the high-rise bridge) when I got behind him with the blue lights on,” an officer says in police recordings of the incident.

In another recording, an officer says McClung was “passing everybody on the right” side of the road while Cole was trying to stop McClung.

McClung kept driving, even flashing his blue lights at one point, before heading south into downtown Pascagoula, where two other Pascagoula patrol vehicles got involved.

McClung eventually pulled over on Krebs Avenue near Jacks on the Tracks.

‘Went the wrong way’

“He had around three to drink, went the wrong way on Yon ( a one-way street) and came back around to Krebs,” an officer says in the video and audio recordings.

Another police officer is later summoned to the scene of the stop, with an officer saying, “I need you. I need you here.”

McClung told police he was on his way to get dinner for his wife. He was dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and a ballcap. According to the video and Johnson, McClung was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.

When Cole realized who the driver was, he called to tell his supervisor, Lt. Doug Adams. Adams called Johnson to tell him what was going on.

An officer also says McClung “failed the HGN,” short for the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is given to suspected impaired drivers to see whether they are capable of “tracking an object with your eyes.”

Johnson later told the Sun Herald that McClung did not actually fail the test, but instead refused to complete it.

Johnson said he instructed his supervisor to uncuff McClung and have a Pascagoula officer drive him home.

He ordered a second officer to follow the first officer to the drop-off point so he could give the first officer a ride back to Pascagoula.

In another audio and video excerpt, an officer asks “You want a record, Chief?”

The Sun Herald asked Johnson what he would say to people who might think McClung was getting special treatment because he’s a law enforcement officer.

“And people are going to say that,” Johnson said. “I can’t respond to every innuendo people draw from everything we do. I mean, again, a decision was made to handle it the way it was handled.”

‘We weren’t pursuing anything’

“I made the decision not to pursue the matter further,” Johnson told the Sun Herald in an interview. “We weren’t pursuing speeding. We weren’t pursuing anything.

“We make decisions all the time. We use discretion when we charge and don’t charge people. It’s not that everybody that gets pulled over gets charged.”

Cole and Pascagoula patrolmen James Prisock, James Murphy and John Lynd responded to the scene along with Adams, the officer in charge that night.

Once a decision was made not to charge McClung, an officer asks a colleague “You got the video on?” When he replies in the affirmative, the officer says, “Turn it off.”

The Sun Herald asked Johnson if other police officers have been given a ride home or released under similar circumstances since he took over as Pascagoula police chief in 2009.

“I don’t recall,” Johnson said. “I don’t recall.”

‘I don’t drive drunk’

McClung, contacted earlier this month by the Sun Herald for comment, said he was not impaired and does not drink and drive.

“If I was under the influence and there were no charges brought against me, I didn’t receive a ticket or a summons, what do I need to talk about it for?” McClung said. “People get stopped every day. Every day. So I don’t understand what I need to talk about.”

McClung told the Sun Herald to call Pascagoula police “and see if I got any charges or if I got to appear in court, whatever it is, and if that’s the case, then that’s news. This ain’t no news. People get stopped all the time.”

When asked what did happen, McClung said: “I was stopped. I was stopped and I was released.”

When asked about driving 109 mph, McClung said: “No way in the world I was going 109. Please, I wouldn’t do it.”

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45

What’s the fine?

Pascagoula police fines for speeding and DUI:

Speeding 109 mph in a 55-mph zone: $235 fine.

DUI: $1,075 fine plus mandatory completion of four-week class with the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program.

Source: Pascagoula Police Department