TACOMA, Wash. — State patrol troopers got quite a shock Sunday when the reckless driver they were chasing turned out to be one of their own.
Trooper David Bertholf had been a top trooper when it came to nabbing drunk drivers, and now he’s accused of driving drunk himself.
Berthofl isn’t just accused of driving drunk, either. He’s also facing charges of hit and run and eluding after troopers say he tried to outrun them.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the actions and decision-making of this particular employee,” said WSP Capt. Rob Huss.
Investigators say Berthofl was driving near Tacoma on Sunday afternoon when he side-swiped a car that had slowed for a traffic jam.
Witnesses say Bertholf went around into the median. They followed him until troopers closed in. Despite the lights and sirens, troopers say Bertholf didn’t stop. When he finally did pull over, the troopers were shocked to learn he was a co-worker.
Even after he stopped, troopers say they had to wait 10 minutes for Bertholf to get out of his car.
“The response from the troopers that went to the scene and made the apprehension show that if you’re intoxicated in this state, we don’t care who you are,” Huss said. “We’re going to do our job. It’s expected of us and it’s what we’re committed to doing.”
A 20-year veteran, Bertholf has received numerous awards for drunk driving prevention in both Pierce and Kitsap counties. In 1994, he was given an award for returning to work after he recovered from serious injuries in a head-on crash on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Recently, he’d been attached to a K-9 unit working with Homeland Security to keep ferries safe. But with Sunday’s arrest, WSP officials say it’s possible his law enforcement career is over.
“There’s a high likelihood,” Huss said. “It’s very difficult for somebody, rightfully so, to fulfill a position in law enforcement when you have these types of serious allegations in place.”
Bertholf is currently being held on $35,000 bail. His attorney said the trooper’s family has already arranged for him to enter an inpatient substance abuse treatment program in Eastern Washington.