Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop arrested for drunk driving

Affidavit Alleges That a Drunk Lawmaker Seen Speeding the Wrong Way Down Highway Later Suggested He Fight the Officer.

When Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was arrested, his blood-alcohol content was reportedly 0.17, more than double the legal limit.

According to police, Gene Suellentrop, the Kansas Senate majority leader, was seen driving erratically shortly after midnight in the Topeka area in mid-March. Another motorist reportedly called 911 to report coming dangerously close to being struck by Suellentrop's car.

That is when things began to get strange.

Following Suellentrop's detention, the officer who pulled him over released an affidavit detailing additional information regarding the incident in which he was suspected of driving in the wrong direction.

Officer Austin Shepley's probable cause affidavit, dated March 23, alleges that he pulled over Suellentrop just before 1 a.m. one week earlier after seeing him driving "wrong way on a divided highway" at "speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour" in a 65-mph region.

Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, right, R-Wichita, confers with Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, during the Senate session March 17 at the Statehouse in Topeka.
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, right, R-Wichita, confers with Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, during the Senate session March 17 at the Statehouse in Topeka.

After several minutes of pursuit, during which he observed the SUV swerve and appear to endanger other drivers, Shepley wrote that he pulled over Suellentrop, 69, and found not only an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, but also the driver staring at him "with a puzzled, scared, blank gaze."

Shepley also noted "watery," "droopy," and "bloodshot eyes" in Suellentrop, as well as slurred speech and trouble keeping his balance.

Suellentrop allegedly declined a Breathalyzer test, according to Shepley's affidavit, and six days later, blood testing revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 — more than twice the legal limit.

According to Shepley, the lawmaker said aloud while in detention at the Shawnee County Jail: "All for going the wrong way."

Suellentrop reportedly even said the words "donut kid" when Shepley was in the room and later adopted a "slightly threatening" tone when the phlebotomist was drawing his blood for testing at Stormont Vail Hospital & Trauma Center in Topeka.

"He made reference to confronting me physically," Shepley said in the affidavit. "He looked me up and down and claimed that he was a professional athlete in high school. He said that he was capable of 'taking me.'"

Suellentrop's office and the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office also did not respond to PEOPLE's Friday email requests for comment.

Although a judge originally released Suellentrop due to a lack of evidence in the police report, prosecutors later stated that they charged him with attempting to elude police, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and speeding.

Suellentrop, a Wichita businessman, handed over "the bulk" of his Senate majority duties to Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley following his detention, stating in a statement obtained by The Kansas City Star that the decision will be in effect "until the matters I am currently dealing with are resolved."

"I regret that this event has diverted my colleagues and Senate staff's attention away from the critical issues we are discussing on behalf of the Kansas people," Suellentrop said.

According to the Star, Suellentrop was still due $500 biweekly employee payments as of March 30, despite having delegated his responsibilities to Alley, 72.

On June 3, he is scheduled to appear in court. It is unknown whether or not he has entered a plea.

According to KSNT, Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes said in response to Officer Shepley's account, "I am profoundly disturbed by the new news surrounding the arrest of Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop. I am grateful to God that no one was injured as a result of his very irresponsible and dangerous acts."

Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suelletrop, left, R-Wichita, confers with his chief of staff, Eric Rucker, right, during a Senate session, Friday, April 9, 2021, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Suellentrop is facing a call to resign after being charged with drunken driving and trying to elude law enforcement over his March 16, 2021, arrest in Topeka.
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suelletrop, left, R-Wichita, confers with his chief of staff, Eric Rucker, right, during a Senate session, Friday, April 9, 2021, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Suellentrop is facing a call to resign after being charged with drunken driving and trying to elude law enforcement over his March 16, 2021, arrest in Topeka.

"While Senator Suellentrop is entitled to due process and fair repercussions for his reckless conduct, he is also entitled to the same degree of transparency as the Kansans he was elected to represent. I'm disappointed that he didn't reach this conclusion on his own "As Sykes said.

According to KSNT, Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and Vice President Rick Wilborn said in a joint statement: "After reviewing the affidavit, we would like to reiterate our previous statement that the underlying incident is extremely significant, and we are grateful that no one was hurt. Although we seek to uphold due process, numerous aspects of the alleged conduct are profoundly disappointing, and serious consequences are inevitable."

"With just a few days left in the session, we will complete our work with Senator Larry Alley performing the majority leader's duties," they added. "Any future decisions will be taken in due course."

Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was absent from the senate floor Tuesday afternoon, after being released from Shawnee County Jail Tuesday morning.
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