The LA County Sheriff’s department and first responders to golf star Tiger Woods’ serious crash last month made comments and decisions favorable to Woods. Forensic experts are now coming forward criticizing early Sheriff’s statements. They say police and Sheriff’s officials gave Woods ‘the benefit of the doubt.” This may explain why Tiger Woods wasn’t tested by police immediately after his car crash.
Deputies “did not see any evidence of impairment”
Head Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on the day it happened that his deputies “did not see any evidence of impairment.” Woods was found trapped in his SUV after driving off of the street. He rolled over into an adjacent field. The next day Villanueva said the whole incident “was purely an accident.” He went further saying there was no need to bring in an expert on drug recognition. No “drug recognition expert needed to respond to do any further assessment of that,” he said. “This is what it is; an accident.”
But Woods himself told deputies twice he didn’t remember how the crash happened. He even stated he didn’t remember driving at all. Later in the hospital, he repeated he did not remember driving or the crash.
No evidence on the road showed any type of braking occurred leading up to the rollover. So Woods’ own statements and the distance the SUV he was driving traveled before rolling over without brake skid marks raises questions about sheriff department conclusions. Especially, within hours of the incident having happened.
Calling a drug-recognition expert is usually routine
At the time of the initial investigation, the first responding deputy concluded it was an accident because of the “downhill road” condition. Calling a drug-recognition expert is usually routine when a serious crash has occurred. However, it is ultimately up to the policing agency in charge to make that call.
Woods had a public history of Ambien use and accidents. In 2017 he crashed his Mercedes sedan and admitted he “takes several prescriptions.” The drug Ambien was later found in his system according to USA Today.
“LASD is not releasing any further information at this time,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. “The traffic collision investigation is ongoing and traffic investigators continue to work to determine the cause of the collision.” Traffic accident analysts say under the circumstances a DRE would be expected to help determine cause.
“I would have thought that you would have him evaluated by a DRE,” crash expert Charles Schack told USA Today. “To see whether or not there are some physical clues beyond the operation that would point to impairment. To an untrained person sometimes the effects are a bit more subtle. They require a bit more in-depth examination to bring out the evidence of impairment.”
“No field sobriety test and no DRE”
Sheriff Villanueva sees it differently. “The deputy at the scene assessed the condition of Tiger Woods. There was no evidence of any impairment whatsoever,” Villanueva said a day after the crash. “He was lucid, no odor of alcohol, no evidence of any medication, narcotics, or anything like that would bring that into question. So that was not a concern at the time. So, therefore, obviously no field sobriety test and no DRE.”
A number of experts say all indications point to someone who fell asleep. Former detective Jonathan Cherney walked the crash scene. He said the evidence indicates “a classic case of falling asleep behind the wheel because the road curves and his vehicle goes straight. The fact that he doesn’t remember driving at all is also indicative and consistent with the objective symptom of impaired driving.”
Nothing has been made public about the “black box” data
A few days after the accident the sheriff’s department executed a search warrant for the “black box” in Woods’ SUV. Data would show how fast Woods was traveling, braking, and any steering activity. Nothing has been made public about the data. Now the sheriff’s department says only that Villanueva’s early comments were only “preliminary observation.”
Many wonder how an “accident” can be determined so early? Especially when the vehicle’s speed or any driver input is not known? Because of the high-profile nature of the accident, it was expected that officials would go the extra mile. This would help to support early determinations when contrary evidence and past history suggested possible recurring factors.