Video: Arizona Lawmaker Arrested After Testy Exchange With State Troopers

Video: Arizona Lawmaker Arrested After Testy Exchange With State Troopers
Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Representative David Cook argued with Arizona Department of Public Safety officers during his arrest for extreme DUI on December 19 and failed to follow instructions during field sobriety tests, newly released dashcam video shows.

Cook lost two of his committee assignments on Friday, including his seat on the House Public Safety Committee, after the House speaker-elect viewed the video of his arrest and talked to Cook.

An incident report released by DPS on Thursday described how Cook told one officer, "You're making a mistake," and initially handed over his House I.D. card when asked for his driver's license. In a statement of apology posted to Facebook, Cook denied that he tried to get special treatment because he is a lawmaker. 

In the video, an argumentative and hard-to-understand Cook appears to be annoyed with one officer. At one point, while an officer asks him to complete a sobriety test, the lawmaker complains at length about how he wasn't being able to retrieve a jacket from his car earlier despite the cold weather. In the video, he is already wearing a jacket.

Referring to one officer, Cook says that "this young 22-year-old kid" was able to put on a jacket. "So it's okay to have your jacket on –" Cook starts, before another officer interrupts.

"You have a jacket on, sir," the trooper says.

"I went and got a vest because he went and got his jacket on when he got me out here!" Cook says, raising his voice.

"That's neither here nor there. You have a jacket on now. We're asking you to complete the test. That's all we're asking for," the trooper responds.

During the tests, Cook struggles to follow directions. While an officer asks him to stand in the correct starting position with his right foot in front of his left for a walk-and-turn test, Cook says, "That's not gonna happen."

"That's not gonna happen?" a trooper replies.

"I'll comply with your order. I'm not gonna stand here forever," Cook says.

Though the view of the dashcam video camera is partially obscured by a patrol car in the way, Cook appears to attempt the walk-and-turn test, after the troopers struggle to get him to understand the directions. The officers shine a light into Cook's eyes for a horizontal gaze test, which Cook complains is too bright.

After the gaze test, a trooper tells Cook that he hasn't followed their directions, and informs him that he is under arrest for DUI. They handcuff Cook, who seems surprised, and load him into a DPS vehicle.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Cook was observed drifting in and out of his lane on the Loop 202 near McDowell Road on Wednesday night around 11:30 p.m.

When an officer asked him for his driver's license, Cook handed over his House I.D. card, according to a DPS incident report, raising questions about whether Cook meant to use his status as a lawmaker to escape a citation.

Cook also explained to a trooper that the reason for his driving was because he had dropped his phone. "Do you know what you're doing son?" Cook said, according to the incident report. "You're making a mistake," he added, before getting out of his Ford pickup at the request of an officer.

When exiting a patrol vehicle after arriving at the DPS Knutson station, a trooper told him to watch his head, and Cook reportedly said, "I'm fine, don't worry, you'll get yours."

He was cited on three drunk-driving charges, including extreme DUI after breathalyzer tests showed his blood alcohol content to be 0.158 and 0.152 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.

The exchanges regarding his I.D. and his exit from the patrol car don't appear in the dashcam footage released by DPS on Friday in response to a public records request. The dashcam video appears to be from a second trooper who responded after the first trooper pulled Cook over.

Cook issued an apology on Facebook on Thursday, blaming his citation on "no lunch, no dinner, and some drinks with friends."

He was first elected to the Legislature in 2016 and was reelected in November. A cattle rancher from Globe, Cook is a Republican who represents District Eight, which covers Pinal County.

House Speaker-elect Rusty Bowers said in a statement on Friday afternoon that Cook would be stripped of his membership on the House Public Safety Committee.

The House County Infrastructure Committee, which Cook was set to chair, is being disbanded, Bowers said. Cook will remain on the Natural Resources, Energy & Water Committee.

“Representative Cook has the ability to be a talented legislator, but he clearly has some personal challenges that he needs to confront," Bowers said. "I’m hopeful that this incident serves as a wake-up call to him and that he does the work necessary to earn back the trust of his colleagues and constituents – and he has committed to do so.”

Toward the end of the dashcam video, two officers can be heard discussing Cook once the lawmaker is handcuffed and in the patrol vehicle. "Carl said don't book," one officer says.

"Don't book?" another says. "Okay."

Cook was later released to his wife from the station around 3:15 a.m.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty