Assistant fire chief facing charge

Christopher Michael Vanhoy

A Charleston assistant fire chief was arrested earlier this month after police said his truck sped away from a Hanahan officer who suspected him of drunken driving.

Christopher Michael Vanhoy remains on the job for the department where he has worked for 22 years, city spokeswoman Cameron Wolfsen said Wednesday.

He faces a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for blue lights, which carries between 90 days and three years in jail.

Though an incident report noted that Vanhoy, 40, smelled strongly of alcohol, an officer didn’t test him for intoxication because Vanhoy wouldn’t cooperate and the weather was bad, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

An attempt to reach Vanhoy by cellphone was not successful.

It was his second arrest on the same charge, his State Law Enforcement Division background check showed. The resident of Meadowcliff Avenue in Hanahan served probation on a 2001 conviction for fleeing from the police, documents stated. He also was acquitted of two drunken driving charges that year.

The city hired Vanhoy in January 1994, Wolfsen said. He was promoted to his current post in February 2014 and makes $90,000 a year.

Because of changes in leadership at the city’s fire and human resources departments during Vanhoy’s career, Wolfsen said it was not possible Wednesday to say what managers knew at the time of his past arrests.

The city “will look into this matter,” she said.

Around 8 p.m. Nov. 1, a motorist called the police about a possibly impaired driver, an incident report said. The motorist, Ryan Sanders, was following the maroon Nissan Titan pickup truck when a Hanahan police officer caught up to them on Brookside Drive, the report stated.

“I saw a truck that was not driving the right way,” Sanders, a local resident, said in an interview Wednesday. “I was just trying to do the right thing for other people’s safety.”

When the officer pulled behind the Nissan, it was traveling at least partly on the wrong side of the road, the report stated. The truck slowed when the blue lights on the officer’s cruiser started flashing, then sped up. It turned onto Meadowcliff Avenue, where Vanhoy lives.

The officer used his cruiser’s loudspeaker system to tell the driver to stop, but the Nissan kept traveling left of the center line as the driver’s-side door opened, the officer reported.

When the pickup stopped in his front yard, Vanhoy got out, the report stated. Fearing the driver would run away, the officer reported that he pointed a Taser at Vanhoy and told him to put his hands up. Vanhoy complied, and the officer handcuffed him.

A 45-year-old Charleston woman riding in the Nissan told the officer that Vanhoy had been trying to get the truck home before stopping for the police. They had been drinking earlier at a wedding, she told the officer.

The officer said in the report that he noticed on Vanhoy “a strong odor of the impurities of an alcoholic beverage.” Vanhoy’s speech was slurred and his eyes were watery and bloodshot, the officer added.

But the officer did not conduct a field sobriety test “due to believing Vanhoy was planning to attempt to flee on foot while the vehicle was moving,” the report stated.

Capt. Mike Fowler, a Hanahan police spokesman, said Wednesday that he could not clarify that portion of the officer’s report. But he added that Vanhoy was not “cooperating and the weather took a nasty turn, so the officer did not feel that he had a strong DUI case with no field sobriety tests.”

“State law does not mandate an arrest,” he said. “It is left up to the officer’s discretion.”

Vanhoy also was ticketed for driving left of center. He was taken to the Berkeley County jail and released on his own recognizance after a bond hearing the next day.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

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