A DPS trooper claimed he wrecked his patrol unit two weeks ago because he was trying to avoid hitting a deer - but now, the former trooper is charged with DWI.
Joe Don Abernathy turned himself in to authorities Monday and was released on bond Monday afternoon.
Two weeks ago Monday, Abernathy ran off the road before 8 a.m. on Smith County Road 2120, near Old Bascom and Old Omen Roads, not far from University Drive in Tyler.
Abernathy was taken to the hospital, where his blood alcohol content was tested and registered 0.16, twice the legal limit.
Abernathy was involved in a 1997 DPS investigation that involved alcohol, but a Cherokee County Grand Jury decided in May 1997 that there was not sufficient evidence to charge Trooper Abernathy with deadly conduct.
On February 9, 1997, Trooper Abernathy was arrested by the Rusk Police Department after Linda Lanier and her family claimed he followed them in his truck for several miles near Mount Enterprise and shot at their car.
Ms. Lanier spoke with KLTV not long after the grand jury's decision in May 1997.
"All of a sudden, I see the lights, his headlights, right there on me. And I heard the gunshot," Lanier said.
According to an April 18, 1997 Department of Public Safety memo, "Evidence shows Abernathy was driving a vehicle after having consumed an amount of alcohol that was detectable and that in that state he followed a woman ... for 17 to 18 miles."
The memo stated that Abernathy believed Lanier was driving while intoxicated. It said that Lanier drove straight to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department, but Abernathy drove away before talking to officials.
Rusk police officers arrested Abernathy, who was off-duty at the time, for driving while intoxicated. Officers found two guns and beer cans in his truck.
But Abernathy gave a blood sample instead of taking a breathalyzer. That sample was lost in the mail for 17 days. It was also damaged and unusable.
A Cherokee County grand jury decided in May 1997 that there was not enough evidence to charge Abernathy with deadly conduct - but Lanier told us at the time that she felt Abernathy received special treatment.
"The decision of the grand jury - I accept it," she said. "But I still know what happened that night."
Abernathy's supervisor at the time of the 1997 incident recommended that because of his "gross misconduct" that he be given five days off without pay and six months probation.
DPS officials told us on the phone today that DPS did not conduct an internal affairs investigation in this recent matter because Trooper Abernathy resigned on November 6, the day after the wreck.
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