SAN ANTONIO – Despite being found lying on the ground just yards away from a Jeep that a witness had followed from a hit-and-run crash, Clayton Perry ended the night of Nov. 6 at his home, instead of the back of a police car.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, though, says his officer simply did not have enough to arrest the councilman when he found Perry lying in his own backyard with a visible head injury.
“It’s not so much what the officer believed at the time. It’s what he knew at the time. And what he didn’t know was, from personal observation or from witness reports, that Perry was the person behind the wheel,” McManus said. “It wasn’t until afterwards, at a later time, that the officer had the information that he needed to get an arrest warrant for Perry.”
Perry was charged four days later with failure to stop and provide information, a Class B misdemeanor. SAPD is still investigating Perry for a possible DWI charge, which it plans to file with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, which would then decide whether to prosecute it.
A witness to the Nov. 6 hit-and-run crash at Jones Maltsberger Road and Redland Road, in which a Jeep Wrangler took a turn too wide and smashed head-on into a Honda Civic, followed the fleeing Jeep to Perry’s home a half-mile away.
Body camera video shows a San Antonio Police officer finding the Jeep still running a little more than an hour later. He then discovered Perry a few yards away, in his backyard.
Perry appeared disoriented in the video and evasive when questioned by the officer, who believed Perry to have been the driver from the hit-and-run. The officer can be heard telling Perry that he matches a description from a Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, and suggests “you might have been driving while intoxicated.”
“That’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that...I think most folks think gives you the probable cause to make an arrest. But it wasn’t there,” McManus said. “(The officer) did not have that direct information that (Perry) was behind the wheel.”
Similarly, McManus said, “if you can’t put him behind the wheel, then you can’t you can’t do the field sobriety test.”
While the officer also attempted to winkle a confession out of Perry, the councilman repeatedly denied having driven that night.
Had he confessed, Perry “probably would have been arrested,” McManus said.
“I can tell you very simply that (Perry) was not given any special treatment because of his position. And the officer tried very diligently to get him to acknowledge that he was driving the car,” McManus said.
According to the officer’s incident report, he later talked on the phone with the witness who had followed the Jeep to Perry’s home. The witness described seeing an older white man get out of the vehicle, wearing similar clothing to what the officer had seen Perry wearing.
The affidavit for Perry’s arrest warrant also lists Perry’s appearance in surveillance video from a nearby Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, where staff said he was “highly intoxicated” and smelled like alcohol, as evidence Perry had been driving the Jeep.
Perry has since taken a leave of absence from the city council after telling his colleagues, “I take full responsibility and fully acknowledge that my actions caused the accident that occurred on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 6.”
Perry has refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he was drinking that night, though he said he’ll be “taking the appropriate measures as determined by medical professionals to ensure this will never, never happen again. I commit wholeheartedly to whatever course of action or rehabilitation they recommend.”
The city is currently looking for a temporary replacement for Perry’s council position, though Perry would be able to come back at any time.