Firefighter accused of DUI, pursuit still working
An 18-year veteran of the Charleston Fire Department who allegedly led Putnam County authorities in a pursuit while intoxicated continues to report to work.
Grant Kelly Gunnoe Jr., 39, will not be suspended or face any immediate disciplinary action after being arrested Friday night in Winfield, Charleston Fire Chief Chuck Overstreet said.
"He has not been suspended; there's no administrative leave with or without pay," Overstreet said Monday. "He's innocent until proven guilty. Whenever he comes back to work, he'll be captain on his engine."
He said Gunnoe is not responsible for driving any of the fire emergency vehicles.
Overstreet would not elaborate any further, saying, "It's a personnel issue."
Winfield Police Chief John Perrine noticed a white Ford Bronco speeding south on W.Va. 817 about 7:20 p.m. Friday. The vehicle failed to slow as it passed through a traffic enforcement checkpoint, Perrine wrote in a criminal complaint filed in Putnam Magistrate Court.
"Officers operating the checkpoint had to leap from the roadway for their safety," Perrine wrote.
The chief pursued the SUV with lights and sirens. He noted in the complaint the vehicle veered across the double yellow line near Larabee Lane and illegally passed a vehicle near Water Circle while heading south out of Winfield's city limits.
Perrine pulled up alongside the vehicle and made eye contact with the driver, later identified as Gunnoe, and then motioned for him to pull over. Gunnoe allegedly sped up and continued heading south.
Patrolman Derek Milam joined the pursuit, allowing Perrine to move ahead of the SUV. Perrine and Milam then boxed it in. The officers stopped the vehicle on Winfield Road near Hidden Cove Marina.
Perrine ordered Gunnoe to show his hands multiple times, but he refused and "had to be physically removed at gunpoint," according to the complaint.
Gunnoe was taken to the ground and handcuffed, police said. Perrine and Milam struggled to move Gunnoe from the road to the cruiser.
Gunnoe was incoherent, had a lack of motor skill and fell back to the road on their first attempt. Perrine noted in the complaint that he smelled alcohol on Gunnoe's breath.
The officers were able to get him to his feet on their second attempt but had to support him as he "staggered" to the police car. Once at the car, he refused to get inside and had to be "physically manhandled" to sit in the cruiser, the complaint said.
Officers found an empty pill bottle on the floor of the front passenger seat of Gunnoe's vehicle.
Gunnoe refused to participate in sobriety tests and was taken to the Hurricane Police Department for a breath test. His blood-alcohol content was recorded as .282, well above the legal limit of .08.
Officers said Gunnoe identified himself as a Charleston firefighter and asked for leniency.
Chief Overstreet said, "I can say I spoke with him; he said he didn't do that. He identified himself as a firefighter but he didn't ask for leniency."
He was charged with felony fleeing while driving under the influence and obstructing officers. He was free on bond.
Gunnoe is the son of Charleston Homeland Security and Emergency Services Director Grant Gunnoe Sr. The elder Gunnoe is also a former Charleston fire chief.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.