MELBOURNE, Fla. – Melbourne Police Department officials are conducting an internal investigation after one of their officers was pulled over by a Palm Bay officer on Babcock Street on suspicion of drunken driving, a spokesperson for the department told News 6 partner Florida Today.
On Jan. 20, just before 12:30 a.m., Palm Bay Officer Eddy Lutz stopped Peter Dolci, a three-year Melbourne police officer, saying he had been speeding and drifting in his lane. At Dolci’s car, Lutz told him he smelled of alcohol, body cam footage from Palm Bay police shows.
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Officer Shaun Hill, a spokesperson for Melbourne Police Department, said the department was investigating the incident.
“At this time, the incident is under internal investigation,” Hill said. He declined to say if Dolci was off-duty and in his own vehicle, and declined any further comment.
Dolci, who was driving a 2017 Dodge Durango, said he was in a rush because he had to use the restroom. He denied having consumed alcohol. He told Lutz his female passenger had been drinking, the footage shows.
Lutz told Dolci he went 70 mph on Babcock and was drifting in his lane, the footage shows. Dolci said he did not know he was driving that fast, and he was drifting because his passenger had been engaging in oral sex with him.
Lutz performed a sobriety test on Dolci, asking him to track the movement of his finger with his eyes, the footage shows. Dolci said a traumatic brain injury affected his left eye’s ability to track a moving object. This rendered the physical sobriety test useless, said Palm Bay Police Chief Nelson Moya.
After the test, Lutz acknowledged to Dolci the two know each other professionally.
‘Let’s make sure you don’t drive’
Footage shows Lutz offering Dolci a chance to make a phone call, with Lutz saying, “Looking at your eyes, I would say you’re probably close (to the legal limit). So in lieu of continuing, why don’t we call somebody to come pick you up?”
Dolci called a friend.
Moya said during a typical DUI arrest, people often exhibit signs such as slurring their speech, acting slowly, not being able to produce documents in a timely manner, acting and speaking nonsensically, stumbling, swaying or leaning on their vehicles. None of these things occurred during the interaction between Dolci and Lutz, he said.
Lutz warned Dolci not to leave before the friend arrived.
“You might be over (the blood-alcohol level), you may not be, OK? Obviously you’re not falling down drunk or anything like that, but the driving wasn’t great,” Lutz said.
Lutz left before Dolci’s friend arrived, the footage shows.
Lutz could have let Dolci drive himself home, Moya said.
“But yet, in this case, he does something more,” Moya said. “He goes, ‘You’re close, but let’s make sure you don’t drive.’ He doesn’t have to do that. He can walk away. That guy can drive away because the decision has been made not to arrest but he doesn’t. He admonishes him.”
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Moya said after reviewing the body cam footage, he didn’t find anything wrong in how the Palm Bay officer handled the situation, and no disciplinary actions will be taken against him.
“If you break (down) every minute of that stop, Officer Lutz was not only professional (and) within policy, he was on point in his ultimate decision,” Moya said. “I stand by him with complete confidence that he is protecting this community and in fact, because he is an advocate for preventing drunk driving, this showcases that.”
Moya explained that throughout Lutz’s entire interaction with Dolci, Lutz was assessing his state to determine whether he had cause to arrest him.
Moya described Lutz as an expert in drug recognition and DUI enforcement, a court recognized expert and a multi-time recipient of MADD awards, based on his enforcement of drug impairment.
While Lutz made 147 DUI arrests in 2021, he also did not make arrests in 151 of his DUI investigations. Moya said those numbers “paint a picture of his balanced discretion as you quantify it with his experience and his training ...”
Since the Jan. 20 incident, Dolci received a traffic citation Feb. 3 by the Palm Bay Police Department for speeding on Minton Road near Malabar Annex Space Force Base, the citation shows. He was traveling 54 mph when the posted speed limit was 45 mph.