Condition of N.C. Officer Hurt in Crash Improves

Aug. 1, 2012
The condition of a Durham police officer critically injured when a tractor-trailer slammed into her patrol car on Interstate 85 has improved.

DURHAM - The condition of a Durham police officer critically injured Thursday when a tractor-trailer slammed into her patrol car on Interstate 85 has improved, police said Monday.

Meanwhile, the truck driver initially charged with DWI in the crash was also charged Monday with felony serious injury by vehicle after being released from the hospital and taken to the Durham County Jail. Bond for the driver, Charles Edward Caldwell, 44, of Roberta, Ga., was set at $500,000 and he remained in jail Monday evening.

According to a search warrant, witnesses said Caldwell appeared to be drunk or falling asleep before the accident. After the collision, the driver stayed on his cell phone in the cab "for a long period of time," the warrant quoted witnesses as saying.

The injured officer, Teresa Gilliam, remains at Duke University Hospital. She had been listed in critical condition last week, but police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said Monday that Gilliam has improved.

On Thursday afternoon, Gilliam was stopped on the right shoulder of I-85, just past the exit ramp for Cole Mill Road, after she had pulled over another car. About 3:18 p.m., Caldwell's rig rear-ended Gilliam's unmarked car, pushing it into the rear of a Mazda.

The citation against Caldwell states that he failed to stay within his lane, "weaving all over the road," and was speeding 70 mph in a 60-mph zone. It alleges that he was slow to respond, failed to move over for a patrol car with its emergency lights on, appeared to fall asleep, had droopy eyes and slurred speech.

In the application to search Caldwell's truck, Officer D.J. Kuszaj of the Durham Police Department said he sat beside a N.C. State Highway Patrol trooper as blood was drawn from Caldwell, and noticed that Caldwell "was 'on the nod,' a physiological side effect sometimes associated with the use of narcotic analgesics."

Kuszaj said he interviewed four witnesses to the crash, two of whom were professional drivers.

"They both stated that Caldwell was unable to maintain his lane control for an extended period of time," he wrote.

As the drivers passed Caldwell on the interstate, they looked over and noticed he was drunk or falling asleep, he said.

"All of the witnesses stated that after the collision, Caldwell sat in the cab of the tractor-trailer for a long period of time on his cellular phone," the officer wrote.

Kuszaj said he searched the truck, owned by Escondito Ventures LLC of Killeen, Texas, and found "an unknown blue capsule" on the floorboard of the cab.

Caldwell was transported to Duke University Hospital by ambulance after complaining of chest pain and was admitted for further heart tests, according to the officer's report.

Kuszaj said he and a trooper interviewed Caldwell and found inconsistencies with his account of where he had been during the day of the crash and about events leading to it.

"He stated that his vehicle was loaded somewhere near Woodbridge, Virginia, when evidence collected by the [highway patrol]" suggested it was loaded in Virginia Beach, Va.," Kuszaj wrote.

"He was clear on the details of his trip until the point of the crash, and then suddenly couldn't clearly remember any details."

Caldwell is slated to appear today in Durham County District Court for a bond hearing and appointment of an attorney.

Copyright 2012 The Durham Herald Co.All Rights Reserved

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