Detroit Fire Marshal Gregory Turner was so drunk that police said he was wearing mismatched shoes and appeared to be unaware that he was driving a freshly wrecked city-owned car.
With sparks flying from a bare rim on his 2015 Ford Taurus, the 50-year-old seemed oblivious to the red-and-blue flashing lights and sirens of a Detroit police car on Grand River near Outer Drive on the night of Aug. 29.
He failed to stop for a few more blocks until police pulled beside him at a red light.
According to a police report, Turned “appeared to be dazed and confused like he was not understanding what was happening.”
In a cupholder was a gold badge.
Turner failed the field sobriety test but was not administered a breathalyzer until three hours after he was pulled over. Still, he still blew a .16, which is twice the legal limit.
According to a police report, Turner was wearing blue jeans “with white paint smeared all over, no socks and two different shoes on: a gray in color gym shoe and a black dress shoe.”
This wasn’t the first time Turner was arrested for drunken-driving. In 2014, his driver’s license was suspended after he was convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Fire officials have been tight-lipped about Turner, only saying that he had been suspended without pay. According to records, Turner filed a notice of retirement about a week after his drunken-driving arrest.
What remains unclear is how the car was crashed.
The fire marshal is one of the highest ranking fire officials in a city with the nation’s highest arson rate. The role of a fire marshal is to prevent fires and enforce building codes.
In August, Motor City Muckraker revealed that federal authorities were investigating whether city officials conspired to get the past fire marshal to authorize emergency demolitions of houses that sustained minimal fire damage in an attempt to avoid asbestos remediation.
When a house is deemed “dangerous,” the city’s Building Authority can forgo the bidding process and hire any company it wants to demolish the house without removing asbestos, a deadly, cancer-causing toxin that rains down on neighborhoods during demolitions.
While the fire department, under the leadership of Commissioner Eric Jones, is often quick to fire or suspend a firefighter for minor violations, the treatment of high-ranking fire officials is much different. In December 2017, embattled Deputy Fire Chief Robert Shinske was the subject of an internal affairs investigation following a suspicious car crash involving his department-issued SUV.
Less than two months after he was suspended for driving his department-issued SUV to a bar, Shinske claimed he crashed his car into his house in Dearborn. But the crash investigation was badly bungled by top fire officials who brazenly ignored protocol in what firefighters believed was a cover-up to protect Shinske, the third in command at the department and an ally of Mayor Duggan’s.
Shinske dodged discipline.
With a few days before the city’s notorious Devil’s Night, a three-day arson spree that ends on Halloween, firefighters are wondering what has happened to Turner.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.