Deputy fired for alleged official oppression

May 7, 2009 8:13:42 AM PDT
Eyewitness News has learned a Harris County sheriff's deputy is out of a job, fired for allegedly abusing his authority. It all had to do with $17 his wife said was stolen from her vehicle at a car wash. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The lieutenant is accused of shutting down a car wash in Humble for about an hour. His attorney told us they are filing an appeal to try and get his job back.

The Internal Affairs investigation began last July after allegations that Lt. Louis Guthrie with the Harris County Sheriff's Office stepped over the line.

KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy analyzed the case and said, "It's not the uniform always, it's the badge and saying who you are."

Sheriff's deputies said Guthrie's wife called and claimed about $17 was stolen from her car at an Humble car wash. Guthrie allegedly arrived, shut the car wash down, and even called for backup.

"In this situation, he used the power of the sheriff's department to bully somebody and that is not acceptable conduct," said Androphy.

This week, the Harris County Sheriff's Department fired him for official oppression.

"I'm sure, looking in hindsight, if he had the whole thing to do over again, he'd probably do it differently," said Guthrie's attorney, Earl Musick.

Musick, a former police officer, said they are appealing Guthrie's termination. He said the administrative punishment is excessive.

Apparently, Guthrie's wife has to make frequent trips to the medical center.

"She keeps the money in there to pay for parking as she goes in and out of the medical center. So she was very, very upset and I'm sure that played a part in Lt. Guthrie's reaction," said Musick.

Guthrie has had previous letter of reprimand in his personnel file from 1995 to 2006. Musick said those may or may not have been a part of this decision, but he believes the punishment is too much for the 17-year veteran.

"If he did in fact make a mistake, is that mistake worth ending his career as a peace officer?" said Musick.

Others argue after 17 years, Guthrie should have known better.

"You can't use the sheriff's department for your own personal issues," said Androphy.

Guthrie and his attorney are now waiting for a date for an appeal hearing to be set.

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