Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ronnie Valentine - Dedicated Deputy or Gunslinger?

Lauderdale County Road 200, commonly called the Old Savannah Highway, is a winding stretch of two-lane road--so winding that it was bypassed when the state upgraded Alabama Highway 20 some years ago. Early in the morning of Sunday, October 4, 2009, Deputy Ronnie Valentine was driving on this relative short stretch of road when he met another car that commanded his attention.

Sources give various reasons for Valentine's interest in the vehicle, but what is not in dispute is the fact the off-duty deputy turned his personal car around and began to follow the second vehicle. At some point, Valentine, a member of the Lauderdale Sheriff's Department since early this year, requested assistance from on-duty officers.

The driver of the second vehicle claims he was not impaired, although he had been drinking earlier in the evening, and has no idea why Valentine was following him, or that Ronnie Valentine was a law enforcement officer. Attempting to escape from his pursuer, the driver raced over the winding road at speeds up to 100 mph before crashing at approximately 2:30 a.m. Miraculously, the driver escaped serious injury.

On-duty personnel arriving at the scene arrested the driver for a DUI; the driver has indicated that his blood alcohol level was .06 (below the legal limit) and that Deputy Valentine kicked him in the head while arresting officers had him subdued on the ground. The driver has also publicly stated the arrest caused him not only bodily injury, but loss of his job. Until this week, no Lauderdale personnel have commented officially on the pursuit and crash. Now, Central firefighter Jay Gibson has filed a complaint with the Lauderdale Sheriff's office.

Gibson worked the accident in his official capacity and claims that Deputy Ronnie Valentine caused the crash. No others have come forward to support the victim, and some have doubts as to the purpose of Gibson's claims. It's been only a few months since Valentine filed a similar complaint against fellow deputy Terry Woods, and some see this accusation as an attempt at retribution.

As with the earlier charges against Woods, the accusations against Valentine are being handled by the Lauderdale Sheriff's Department, rather than the ABI. Doesn't Sheriff Ronnie Willis and his staff have enough to do already? And does anyone think the department's investigation of either case can be completely impartial?

Read about the confrontation between deputies Ronnie Valentine and Terry Woods here: Lauderdale Deputies Battle it Out