Senator’s blood-alcohol level more than twice legal limit, report says

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Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit the night he was arrested for driving the wrong way on Interstate 70 near downtown Topeka, a newly released report says.

A blood sample taken the night of the arrest revealed that Suellentrop had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17, more than twice the legal level of 0.08 in Kansas, according to the probable cause affidavit made public Thursday.

The affidavit for the first time gives some sense of Suellentrop’s deportment after he was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. March 16 near the Fourth Street Bridge on I-70 after narrowly avoiding collisions with vehicles headed in his direction.

The report revealed that Suellentrop smelled of alcohol, struggled with his balance, refused to provide a breath sample and showed signs of aggresiveness toward the arresting officer.

The 69-year-old state senator at one point referred to the officer as “donut boy” and said he could “take” him based on his background as a high school athlete.

Suellentrop’s vehicle reportedly had been clocked at speeds of about 90 mph or more as it headed eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-70.

The report shows that Kansas Highway Patrol officer Austin Shepley pulled his firearm and ordered Suellentrop out of the white SUV after it came to a stop.

Suellentrop did not respond to several commands to shut off the vehicle’s ignition, the affidavit said.

As Shepley approached the vehicle, Suellentrop had his left hand out the window and looked back at the officer with a “confused, frightened blank stare,” the affidavit said.

“He was not registering my commands or responding to them,” the report said.

The officer holstered his gun and reached into the vehicle to unlock the driver’s side door. At that point, the officer said he could smell alcohol inside the vehicle.

As the officer helped Suellentrop from the car, the senator’s phone fell out of his lap and onto the vehicle’s floorboard.

“Still not following commands, he attempted to retrieve the cell phone from the floor after I told him to step out,” the report said.

The trooper said he could detect an odor of alcohol coming from Suellentrop, whose eyes were described as watery, droopy and bloodshot.

A field sobriety test was not conducted at the scene because of where the traffic stop was made.

Suellentrop was taken to the Docking Building for further testing where he again struggled to respond to the officer’s instructions, the report said.

“Arriving, I instructed him to exit the vehicle,” the report said. “He had trouble with his motor skills getting out and lost his balance, almost falling over.”

The officer guided Suellentrop to the Intoxilyzer room where the senator again reportedly struggled to keep his balance and at one point almost missed a chair when he tried to sit down.

Suellentrop reportedly refused to provide a breath sample, telling the officer, “I don’t feel the need to do so.”

While in the Intoxilyzer room, Suellentrop made a range of comments that included, “all for going the wrong way” and “donut boy,” according to the affidavit.

The officer then obtained a search warrant for a blood sample, which was drawn at Stormont Vail Hospital almost three hours after the initial traffic stop.

While at the hospital, Suellentrop became “slightly aggressive in his tone” toward the officer, making a reference to physically going up against the officer, according to the report.

“He looked me up and down stating he played state sports competitively in high school,” the report said.

“He stated he could ‘take me.'”

Suellentrop has been charged with driving under the influence, attempting to elude police, reckless driving, speeding and driving the wrong direction on a divided highway.

Eluding police is a felony, while the DUI and reckless driving charges are misdemeanors.

The felony charge presents the most serious threat to Suellentrop’s political career, which started in 2009 as a member of the Kansas House.

The state Constitution requires a legislator to be a “qualified elector.”

If Suellentrop is convicted of a felony, he would lose his right to vote and would no longer be a qualified elector and would lose his seat in the Senate.