CAPE CORAL. Fl. – Nearly two weeks after a drunk driver plowed into the Diamond Billiards in Cape Coral killing one person and injuring others, the driver is a free man. However, Cape Coral police say charges are pending and an arrest will be made when their investigation is complete.
According to police, William Gulliver, the driver of the pickup, had a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit at the time of the crash.
Major crash investigations like this can take several weeks, even months, Cape Coral police say and because they only get one opportunity to present all of their findings from the investigation, they want to be completely thorough.
“An arrest for the sake of saying we made one doesn’t serve the victim, his family, or the community,” wrote Detective Sergeant Dana Coston with the Cape Coral Police Department in a Facebook statement.
Instead Sgt. Coston says they plan to be, “methodical and deliberate, and build a complete case that is ready to go, then make an arrest.”
Attorney Abizer Ghadiali of Fort Myers says it’s smart for law enforcement officials to take their time investigating and not jump to conclusions.
“I think the best investigations may take a little bit longer because you want to make sure it’s thorough,” said Ghadiali. He adds that “It’s those maybes that down the road can come back and hurt the prosecution and the police officers if in the beginning they don’t do all the legwork.”
Ghadiali also believes that the bar’s claim that Gulliver only had two drinks may complicate things. “Seeing some sort of conflicting testimony like that, they want to make sure that they have all the pieces to the puzzle that can tie the driving accident to alcohol.”
Cases like this tend to be complicated with many details that need to be sorted through. A hasty arrest can also be a high burden on officers, according to Ghadiali.
Ronald Gravel, 60, was killed as a result of the crash. Tracy Booker and Linda Girard were both injured that day and they say they’re still recovering. Booker has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for medical expenses.
After our broadcast, we received the following response from Sgt. Dana Coston on our Facebook page:
“Cape Coral Police Department: Major Crash Investigations can take weeks, sometimes months, to complete. Lab work, autopsy, reconstruction, to-scale laser mapping of the crash site, aerial photography (if applicable), measurements of the impact area on the car, forensic examination of the vehicle, compilation of the report, etc. Contrary to what people see on television, these things take time.
Our Officers could have made an arrest that day. An Officer only needs probable cause to do so. However, we only get one crack at this case. The minute the suspect is arrested, the clock starts on the suspect’s right to a speedy trial. And when it is time for trial, we get to present the evidence we have…not the evidence that is pending lab work, or is incomplete. So, we can either make a quick arrest and hope all the evidence is in before trial, or we can be methodical and deliberate, and build a complete case that is ready to go, then make an arrest. Time is on our side until the arrest is made. Once that happens, time is on the side of the defendant. An arrest for the sake of saying we made one doesn’t serve the victim, his family, or the community.
This is standard procedure and best practice in traffic fatality investigations.
Every single news outlet covering this story, to include this reporter, has been told this. The statement in the web copy that “the driver faces no charges for the incident” is patently false. Criminal charges are pending completion of the investigation. – Sgt. Coston”