On any given Saturday night, the bars near Oregon State University are filled with revelers and Corvallis police are on the lookout for drunken drivers.
Shortly after midnight on June 17, as Saturday night veered into Sunday morning, Officer Dave Cox spotted a silver Mazda sedan pulling out of the parking lot at Tailgater's, a campus-area watering hole.
Cox turned his patrol car around and pulled in behind the Mazda on Northwest 14th Street. The driver, Brian J. Noakes, turned right on Monroe Avenue and parked in front of the Circle K store, just half a block from where he started.
In his six years with the Corvallis Police Department, nobody made more arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants than Dave Cox, and Noakes' behavior aroused his suspicions. As he later told a CPD lieutenant during a review of the incident, DUII suspects have been known to pull off the road in a hurry when they spot a police car in their rearview mirror.
But unlike hundreds of other DUII busts in Cox's brief yet distinguished career, this one didn't go according to plan.
A CPD internal affairs report and other documents obtained by the Gazette-Times suggest Cox committed several critical errors that led him to make an unlawful arrest, improperly threaten the suspect's wife and ultimately leave the police force under a cloud.
In his own report of the incident, Cox wrote that he parked nearby and approached the 23-year-old accountant as he was getting out of his car. Asked why he had driven such a short distance, Noakes said he had gone to Tailgater's to pick up his wife and her friends but now believed they were at Clodfelters, across the street from the Circle K.
Cox noted that Noakes' eyes were watery, bloodshot and glassy; that he was moving slowly and slurring his words; that his pupils were dilated and he had a dazed look on his face.
"I asked Noakes how much he had been drinking and he said, nothing," Cox wrote. "I asked Noakes how much marijuana he had smoked and he said, none."
Noakes claims he told Cox he was sick and that he had never smoked pot in his life.
Nevertheless, Cox asked Noakes to take several field sobriety tests, including some normally conducted in a controlled environment by a certified drug recognition expert, which Cox was not. Although he had recently attended DRE training, he would not take the certification exam until several weeks later.
Cox continued to grill Noakes about his marijuana use, which Noakes continued to deny. At 1 a.m., Cox arrested Noakes for driving under the influence and placed him in handcuffs.
At this point, Aslan Noakes just couldn't stand it anymore. She walked across the parking lot toward Cox and asked where he was taking her husband.
According to a statement she gave later, Brian Noakes' 24-year-old wife had been standing outside Clodfelters with two friends when the silver Mazda pulled into the convenience store parking lot, followed by the patrol car. She watched as Cox put her husband through half a dozen sobriety tests, read him his rights and cinched up the cuffs.
Only then, she said, did she approach the officer, who was preparing to pat down Noakes and put him in the back of the police cruiser. When she got within several feet of the car, Cox ordered her to halt. She did, but continued to ask about her husband.
Cox told her if she approached him again, he would use his Taser on her.
She backed off, and Cox drove off with her husband.
At the Benton County Jail, Brian Noakes took a breath test, which showed he had no alcohol in his system. He also submitted a urine sample for drug testing by the Oregon State Police crime lab. That test later came back negative for marijuana or any other illegal drug.
The day after his arrest, Noakes filed a formal complaint with the department, which assigned Lt. Cord Wood to look into the matter.
Cox made no mention of his confrontation with Aslan Noakes in his arrest report. That information only came to light afterward, during the internal affairs investigation.
Aslan Noakes told Wood that she never raised her voice during the incident, even though she was upset. She also said she stopped several feet short of the officer and didn't understand why he would consider her a threat. Her friend Darlene Cook, who witnessed the exchange, backed up her story.
Cox told the lieutenant that the young woman had come "storming towards him" and he feared for his safety because he hadn't yet frisked her husband for weapons or secured him in the patrol car.
Wood, noting that Aslan Noakes is a willowy 5-8 and 120 pounds while Cox is a burly 200-pounder who stands 6-foot-3, concluded that the officer's threat to use a stun gun was inappropriate.
He also concluded that Cox misapplied his drug recognition training and unlawfully arrested Noakes for driving under the influence of marijuana when he had no probable cause to do so.
Based on Wood's report, the CPD chain of command decided to give Cox a one-day suspension. Cox was notified of the suspension on Nov. 1.
He resigned the same day.