Documents: Officer initially didn't think Ratliff was intoxicated

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by JOSH DAVIS

WFAA

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 23 at 7:29 PM

GRAPEVINE -- The officer who arrested Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Jay Ratliff on suspicion of DWI did not initially smell alcohol on him and said the veteran "seemed to be moving around quite well given the wreck," according to an affidavit. 

The documents, obtained by News 8 from Grapevine Municipal Court, detail Ratliff's arrest early Tuesday morning after his Ford F-150 careened into an 18 wheeler and struck the guardrail on State Highway 114 near the Grapevine-Irving border.

While Ratliff eventually failed a field sobriety test and declined to submit to a Breathalyzer test, the responding officer wrote that the veteran Cowboys defensive player did not initially show signs of intoxication.

In the search warrant affidavit for Ratliff's truck, Officer Eric Branch said after he was dispatched to an accident in which the pickup truck was said to have flipped over, he found it "standing upright with major damage to the driver side of the vehicle." No alcohol was found in the vehicle. 

The officer said he spoke to Ratliff and "at first did not smell an odor of alcoholic beverage." The officer wrote that Ratliff was not slurring his words and "seemed to be moving around quite well." Officer Eric Barch wrote the 31-year-old "initially did not show any outward signs of intoxication, but I know wrecks during the nighttime often involve intoxicated motorists."

Barch wrote Ratliff "appeared to be in excellent physical condition," and, citing past experience, "people who are in very good physical condition can mask intoxication very well with regard to speech and balance."

"Given the circumstances I felt I would be remiss in not investigating the possibility of DWI further in Ratliff," Officer Barch wrote in the affidavit.

The policeman said he spoke to Ratliff a second time and "smelled a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath" and "checked closely and noticed his eyes were bloodshot and watered."

Ratliff told the officer he was "chillin' with a 'homegirl'," according to the document. Ratliff said he was going home to Southlake and the officer "did not understand how Ratliff ended up on the Irving/Grapevine border." Ratliff told the officer he was "following navigation" when asked how he got to where he crashed the vehicle.

Ratliff was then given a field sobriety test.

The officer's test results show Ratliff had six clues toward intoxication in test analyzing involuntary horizontal and vertical eye movements. The affidavit says he showed six clues of intoxication –– four is the so-called "decision point." 

In the walk and turn portion of the test, Ratliff showed three clues of intoxication, including starting too soon, missing his heel-to-toe motion and turning improperly. Two clues are the "decision point" of that test.

Finally, in the one-leg stand test, Ratliff showed three clues of intoxication, including swaying, using his arms to balance and putting his foot down. Two clues are the "decision point" of that test.

The affidavit said after the test, Ratliff was arrested for DWI and taken to the Grapevine Police Department Jail for booking. Officer Barch said after the arrest Ratliff "began complaining of prior injuries that could have affected his ability to perform the walk and turn and one-leg stand portions of the sobriety test."

The officer noted he did not ask Ratliff about pre-existing conditions before the test and Ratliff did not inform him of any. Officer Barch noted Ratliff "did not appear to have any difficulty moving around the crash scene" and he did not suspect any injuries, as Ratliff told him he was uninjured initially.

Officer Barch wrote Ratliff's demeanor "changed considerably" at the jail. One the scene, Ratliff was described as "cooperative and courteous," but at the jail, his mood shifted to "verbally abusive." Ratliff refused a breath test and refused to answer questions when asked to participate in a DWI interview. Investigators secured a warrant and took his blood. Those results take about 10 days. 

Ratliff was released on a $500 bond before noon Tuesday.

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