SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ — The son of Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb is potentially facing felony charges if toxicology results reveal what a Drug Recognition Expert suspected at the scene of his near-fatal car crash.
On July 8, Cooper Lamb smashed into the back of a bicyclist in the San Tan Valley area, on Gary Road just south of Judd Road.
THE SHERIFF’S SON:— Zach Crenshaw (@ZachCrenshaw) November 14, 2020
An exclusive on @ABC15 at 10.
After months of hounding, MCSO provided the 21-pg report for the crash involving Cooper Lamb, that nearly killed a father & left him hobbled for life.
New details on the arrest, release, tox results & hear from the Sheriff himself. pic.twitter.com/zBZCaEMZPr
"Impaired...and unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.”
The crash happened while it was still light out, and the victim was biking on the shoulder.
The MCSO police report, obtained by ABC15 after months of follow-up requests, reveals that detectives arrested Cooper that night and found the 20-year-old to be "impaired by a Central Nervous System depressant and Cannabis and unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.”
The day after the incident, MCSO released a brief statement, saying in part:
"The driver of the vehicle was processed for potential impairment, a warrant to draw blood was authorized, and blood evidence acquired. The vehicle was also impounded as evidence."
What the agency left out of the statement is that Cooper Lamb failed nearly every field sobriety test administered. The Drug Recognition Expert wrote that Cooper "displayed poor balance and fine motor skills, his speech was slow and slightly slurred, and he had major problems with simple comprehension on instructions."
Lamb's second-oldest son even told investigators he did not realize he hit a bicyclist until he heard 'a loud thump' and stopped to look around his car.
Field Sobriety Tests
In the report, detectives went to great lengths to outline why they believed Cooper was impaired.
They wrote the following:
"I observed him to have thick speech that would cause him to slow words on occasion. He would sway from side to side...There was an uncommon delay in some of his responses to me as if he was having trouble comprehending some of the questions I had asked him. His eyes appeared watery. He was calm and cooperative.”
“Cooper was wearing socks and pajamas, I asked him if he had shoes or footwear in the car that he would like to wear and he said no.”
During the 'Walk and Turn' test “his legs were very wobbly...he turned incorrectly, stepping offline.”
During the 'One-Leg Stand' test, Cooper "said he was going to stand on his left foot but actually raised his left foot.”
During the 'Finger to Nose' test, he missed his nose at least four times and raised the incorrect arm twice.
He "displayed eyelid tremors [and] his chin drifted down"
The detective wrote, "I placed Cooper under arrest due to his admission to driving along with my observations of impairment including coordination issues, balance problems, severe problems with comprehension, short-term memory problems... and inability to divide his attention.”
Cited and released
After the failed tests, investigators placed Lamb under arrest for DUI-Liquor/Drugs/Vapor/Combo.
They obtained a search warrant from a judge in order to obtain four vials of Lamb's blood. In the warrant request, they also mentioned 'aggravated assault' as a potential crime.
Then after drawing his blood at a 'Pinal County substation' the detectives cited and released him.
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case where there’s an accident, someone’s injured, and the person [is] not arrested...if a DRE believes the person is impaired," said Jared Keenan, a defense attorney. "So it’s highly unusual that there was no arrest made that night."
One attorney told the victim's lawyer, Lazzara, that oftentimes an arrest is not made until the toxicology report is back.
In Cooper Lamb's case, the results are still pending, even though it has been 128 days (at the publication of this article) and the average turnaround time, according to the DPS website, is 71 days.
MCSO said in a statement to ABC15:
"Per Arizona State Law and MCSO Policy, we have the burden to show what type of substance may have been a contributing factor; if any; of impairment prior to the arrest of any individual; unless other criminal circumstances are present; probable cause must exist."
Keenan though, wonders if Cooper's connection to a top cop has been a factor.
"A police officer or their family member is going to get the highest level of due process that can possibly be provided," said Keenan, President of the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice. "Whereas someone who’s not those people may not."
"I arrived on scene to check on my son."
It is unclear from the 21-page police report, who called Cooper's father to the scene.
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb told ABC15 over the phone Friday that he was not involved the day of the crash, and has not inquired about the investigation since.
"I know nothing about the case, other than showing up for five minutes and checking on my son," said Sheriff Lamb, who just won re-election the week prior to the report being released. "I haven’t spoken with MCSO."
ABC15 asked Sheriff Lamb if his son was under the influence or if he was aware of any addiction issues.
"I’m confident he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol. I don’t know about anything else," said Lamb. "We just have to wait and see what the test results come back as... I don’t know - we don’t have any indication that he has addiction issues."
The victim, "lucky he survived"
Larry Fawcett is a loving father. Before the accident, he was an avid sportsman who was always on the go.
"This guy was a very active person. He used to mountain climb, go bird hunting, do Spartan Races with his daughter. Just very much into nature. Always physically active," said Larry Lazzara, Fawcett's attorney.
Now Fawcett can barely walk.
"The force of the impact caused life-altering, catastrophic injuries to my client. He is lucky he survived," said Lazzara, speaking on behalf of his client, in part because of the physical toll it has taken. "His brain was injured, his spine was fractured, his leg was broken, the ligaments in his knee were torn, his arm was broken. His whole life has been changed because of this, and it happened in a split second."
According to court records online, Cooper Lamb's license is currently suspended.
Sheriff Lamb told ABC15 his son is not currently living with him, and the family is waiting to see what happens with the toxicology results.
"As parents, we’ve done the best we can. We just pray that they turn out as good as we hope," said Sheriff Lamb. "My heart goes out to the victim. Anytime someone is injured like this, I hope that he’s OK."
"Obviously, there could be criminal charges potential he brought against Cooper Lamb," said Lazzara.
MCSO said in a statement that the investigation is ongoing, and a 'submittal' to the prosecutor's office is dependent on the toxicology results.
"Please note that our process and protocol is uniform and is not influenced based on the individual or circumstance. Vehicular Crime Investigations remain open until the toxicology report is back before the report is completed and uploaded, this is typically the reason it may take a bit longer for us to release the reports as we want to ensure a thorough investigation is complete prior to submittal or release."
If you have a news tip or story that needs investigating, you can contact Zach Crenshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.