RACINE — A Racine Police sergeant accused of drunken driving and striking an occupied vehicle and injuring a woman has been criminally charged, nearly a month and a half after the incident.
Sgt. Samuel Stulo was charged late Tuesday with a felony count of hit-and-run involving injury and two misdemeanor counts of causing injury/operating while under the influence. He previously had been cited for forfeiture offenses for inattentive driving, refusing to take a sobriety test and failing to notify police of an accident.
Both misdemeanor counts are first-offense charges. One charge has a prohibited blood alcohol concentration of under 0.15 percent and one has a prohibited alcohol concentration of over 0.15 percent.
Stulo, 42, is a 16-year veteran of the Racine Police Department.
An initial court appearance regarding the criminal charges is set for Feb. 11 at the Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave.
Mary Scott, the woman whose car Stulo reportedly struck on State Street on Dec. 17, said that despite suffering a broken rib, neck laceration, and ongoing head and neck pain as a result of the crash, she has forgiven Stulo for his actions.
Scott, 63, of Racine said Stulo “should have known better” than to drink alcohol and drive, look at his phone while driving, and start to drive away before pulling over 600 feet down the street.
According to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, Stulo’s blood-alcohol content was 0.182 when a blood sample was taken more than two-and-a-half hours after the crash. The legal limit in Wisconsin is 0.08.
“I don’t know why he would leave (the scene of the crash). He didn’t know if I was dead or what,” Scott said. “You feel bad for what he did, but did he think about how I am doing?”
“I’m confused in how I feel about police officers now,” Scott said. “I’m sure every person is different, but I always had high feelings for the law and law officers and people like that. I never had anything bad happen to me regarding police officers. … It disappoints me so much, because it’s a police officer who is supposed to know better and protect people.”
Stulo was arrested the day of the crash by a Racine County Sheriff’s deputy, after the Racine Police Department initially responded to the crash and called the sheriff to avoid a conflict of interest. The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges, also in order to avoid a conflict of interest in Racine.
Police Chief Art Howell said the typical procedure was followed within his department by placing Stulo on leave after the incident.
“Each potential case of misconduct should be judged on its own merit or absence thereof,” Howell said in a statement. “The noteworthy and honorable work performed by sworn officers of the Racine Police Department on a daily basis should not be diminished or otherwise undervalued.”
Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the state’s largest police officers’ union, had a similar message.
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“While officers found to have engaged in misconduct should absolutely be held accountable for their actions, people should resist the urge to paint all of law enforcement negatively with a broad brush as a result of a specific individual event,” Palmer said in an email.
“There are few other professions that are as maligned as law enforcement is for the perceived bad acts of a few officers, regardless of where throughout the country those events might occur,” Palmer continued. “The vast majority of police officers report to duty each day out of a genuine desire to serve and protect their community, despite the tremendous dangers and scrutiny that go along with the jobs that we expect them to perform.”
Stulo’s defense attorney, Patrick Cafferty, said that the criminal charges being filed were no surprise, and that not guilty pleas will be submitted.
“At this point in the proceedings, we do not have access to all of the information the DA has,” Cafferty said in a message to The Journal Times. “We will take this one step at a time.”
‘I don’t wish anything bad on him’
According to the Sheriff’s Office incident report, Stulo told a deputy that he had had drunk “a few beers” at Maxine’s, a bar at 835 Washington Ave., before driving and that he was looking at his phone when the crash occurred. He also allegedly failed field sobriety tests and refused to have his blood drawn until a warrant was acquired.
“I don’t wish anything bad on him,” Scott said. “Should he lose his job? I don’t think so. What good is it going to do? I forgive him, but he still has to pay for what he did to me. … I’m hoping he learned a lesson from this.”
Scott said she has been undergoing physical therapy and seeing a psychiatrist as a result of the crash.
“I don’t have a normal life,” she said. “… I find myself angry, because of the way I am hurting all the time and going to all these therapy sessions. I was obeying the law, and he wasn’t obeying the law. And that’s what put me in this situation.”
Scott doesn’t remember much about the crash. She guesses she blacked out momentarily after her car, a Chevy Impala, was struck from behind by Stulo’s truck on the 1900 block of State Street.
“I don’t remember the initial hit,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Scott said she remembers coming to as people surrounded the car, shouting and claiming it was a “hit-and-run.” Meanwhile, her nephew, George Gayton, ran after Stulo’s truck, which pulled over approximately 600 feet down the street. Gayton said it appeared as though the truck pulled over because it had broken down because of damage resulting from the crash.
“I was obeying the law and he wasn’t obeying the law. And that’s what put me in this situation.” Mary Scott,
victim in Dec. 17 crash