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Officer charged with leaving crash found drinking at home

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – An East Grand Rapids police officer has been charged with reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident, but not drunk driving though police suspect alcohol was a factor in the incident.

Nicholas E. Schwein, 33, was charged following the crash that happened last Thursday near Pettis Avenue and 5 Mile Road in Cannon Township. No one was hurt in the incident.

Police indicate that Schwein left the scene following the wreck which occurred late in the evening. Police caught up with him about two hours later, officials report.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department is handling the investigation. Undersheriff Michelle Young confirmed that officers suspect alcohol was a factor in the crash though no sobriety or blood testing was conducted following the crash.

“We would have a hard time getting probable cause to get toxicology reports,” Young said, adding that officers would have to have probable cause to suspect Schwein was drunk at the time of the crash. “Current state [of intoxication] isn’t necessarily what it was two hours ago.”

Young said the investigation showed that Schwein consumed alcohol following the crash as well.

Undersheriff Young said that police had received complaints about Schwein’s driving that night prior to the collision.

“We had citizen reports about a car driving recklessly that met the description of his vehicle,” Young said.

The reckless driving charge carries a penalty of up to 93 days in jail and the leaving the scene of a property damage accident charge carries up to a 90 day jail sentence.

The potential penalty for a drunk driving charge depends on the level of intoxication. If the driver has a blood alcohol content of between .08 and .17 a conviction could carry up to 93 days in jail. If the BAC is .17 or higher the maximum sentence is 180 days jail time.

Schwein was not arrested once police caught up with him, Young said. She added it is standard protocol given the minor charges he faced.

“Our current agreement is we don’t take somebody to jail for that,” Young said. “He was charged with a very serious – a comparably serious charge.”

“It is not our intent to allow him to avoid any consequences,” Young said, adding that Schwein is being handled “just like anybody else would be”.

East Grand Rapids Public Safety Chief Mark Herald was not immediately available for comment and a phone call placed to Schwein’s home did not garner an immediate response. 24 Hour News 8 will update this story with their comments should they respond.

Schwein’s status with the department is not clear.

“We [police officers] make mistakes,” Young said. “We absolutely need to be held accountable.”