Harrison Co. DA explains delayed arrest in Dansby hit-and-run ca - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Harrison Co. DA explains delayed arrest in Dansby hit-and-run case

Ashli Dansby, 33 (Source: Harrison County Sheriff's Office) Ashli Dansby, 33 (Source: Harrison County Sheriff's Office)

Harrison County District Attorney Coke Solomon says there was not enough evidence to get a warrant for alcohol blood testing on local news radio personality Ashli Dansby's system in the hours after this weekend's hit and run crash. 

Police say Dansby, 33, struck a woman in the street with her Toyota just after 1 a.m. Saturday on Caddo Street and Victory Drive. Although police were called to her home shortly after it happened, a warrant was not issued issued for her arrest until Monday. 

The radio news personality and news director at KMHT, who is married to a former Harrison County Assistant District Attorney, is charged with failure to stop and render aid.

Many have questioned why Dansby was never tested for alcohol in her system, and why the arrest came 3 days later. 

In spite of a statement from Dansby's attorney on Tuesday morning that "there's not been any question about who was the driver of the vehicle since the incident first took place," Marshall Police Chief Eddie Campa explained in a news conference Tuesday afternoon that, "We couldn't establish that she was behind the wheel, so we didn't have the probable cause to go any forward towards obtaining a blood drawn warrant."

That decision, according to Campa, was the result of guidance from the district attorney's office. 

"We consulted and made contact with the District Attorney, who directed us on how we should handle this case and that's exactly what we did." 

Campa went on to say, "I don't believe there was any type of preferential treatment offered by anybody, whether it was from the district attorney's office - I cannot speak for the district attorney - but I am going to make that assumption."

Solomon took the rare step of Wednesday issuing a statement on the pending case in response to Campa's news conference, and "due to the current media frenzy."

In his statement, Solomon confirmed that that he was called early Saturday morning by an MPD officer asking for assistance in a hit and run accident, "and the possibility of an intoxicated assault."

I was informed of the identity of the suspected driver of the vehicle, and that her attorney was there telling officers she would be exercise sic] her 5th Amendment right’s [sic]. I was also informed that the suspect was already in her house and was not coming out to speak with the officer present at the scene.

Solomon's statement reveals how Dansby's refusal to speak with officers complicated the investigators' efforts to gather evidence that would hold up in court:

The purpose of the call was to determine if the officer could still perform what was referred to as a mandatory blood draw. The officer was under the belief that he could take her to the hospital and have blood drawn from her to determine if there was alcohol involved without a warrant. The officer wanted to make sure before moving forward because if he had done so, and he was wrong, then any evidence obtained would have been suppressed and unusable in the case.

My office has and will continue to offer to law enforcement the ability to contact either myself or my investigators to answer questions such as those no matter the time of day or night. The officer made the correct decision to contact me because if he moved forward, it would have been a violation of the suspect’s constitutional right and result in suppressed evidence due to recent Court of Criminal Appeal’s decisions. I informed the officer that we would have to do a blood search warrant to obtain the blood for testing.

As the suspect was already in her house and not coming out we were left only a few options. Either get a felony arrest warrant which takes time and see if there was still any evidence on the suspects breath or clothing that would help establish probable cause that alcohol might have been involved, or go forward and get the blood warrant. 

As time had already passed and would continue to pass while the warrants were being typed and reviewed by a judge, any evidence on the suspect’s person would no longer be present to establish that probable cause. Therefore we turned to what information we had at the time officers were present at the house to help in establishing probable cause. 

It had already been relayed to me that there was none present around the vehicle or at the scene of the hit and run. With what little evidence we had, a blood warrant was typed but we were able to quickly determine that insufficient evidence was present to establish probable cause for the warrant and we were unable to get one. 

I had already made the decision to not arrest the suspect at her house on the simple charge of a felony hit and run because I needed further investigation to be done to determine the right charge for the offense committed. This is a common practice when the charge is in question and one that is used quite often. I informed her attorney that we would not be arresting her that night to allow us time to fully investigate the matter before making a determination on the appropriate charge. This is a process that can take hours and days.  A process that requires obtaining records of receipts and speaking with any witnesses that might have seen the suspect that night and could confirm that she had been drinking.

On Monday, officers came to my office to obtain assistance in preparing a felony hit and run warrant because they had been directed by their chief to move forward and make the arrest.  My office assisted in the preparation of the warrant and her attorney was contacted so he could make arrangements to turn herself in.  She turned herself in Tuesday morning without incident.  I know that the MPD will continue to investigate this case to determine if a case of intoxicated assault will be presented to the Grand Jury or if the case will move forward as a felony hit and run.

Solomon's statement comes a day after the District Attorney asked to be recused from the case, citing the conflict of interest because Mr. Dansby worked at one time with Solomon at the DA’s office as an ADA. 

District Judge Brad Moore will have to appoint a special prosecutor take over the case. 

Dansby was released on bond Tuesday morning. She did not return to work on Wednesday, but is expected to return on Thursday according to KMHT Director of Operations Jamie Horton.

The victim of the hit and run has been identified as 49-year-old Evelyn Mallard of Marshall.

"I hate it happened though, you know, because she doesn't bother anybody, she's a friendly type person, she gets along with everybody around here, everybody knows her," said Mallard's former neighbor, Herman Buford. 

At last check, she was still in the hospital at Good Shepherd Medical Center with gashes on her head and face and a broken toe. 

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