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The heroic deeds of police are often the subject of television series and movies, but rarely do we see what happens when police come to see themselves as being above the law. Documents from the arrest of former Champaign police detective Lisa Staples depict an individual who has crossed that line.
While still a member of the Champaign Police Department, an article about Staples and her passion for sky diving appeared in the News-Gazette. In an interview with reporter Paul Wood, Staples described herself an “adrenaline junkie” (8/6/2002). Her boyfriend at the time, Mark Briggs, a fellow Champaign police officer who also enjoys jumping out of planes, said Staples was a person that likes to take a risk and “somebody you want working on a case.” Police often cultivate the image of themselves as individuals who stand apart from the public and possess special skills. “We’re a different breed,” Briggs said. “We’re the people who run to what everybody else is running from.” The story of Lisa Staples shows how such a daring personality can come to abuse the law they were once sworn to uphold.
On November 30, 2008, Staples received a DUI after police found her driving the wrong way on Interstate 72 in an unmarked squad car while off duty. Staples was forced to resign from the Champaign Police Department due to public outrage after an unusual plea bargain of 18 months court supervision, which if successfully completed would leave her with no record of a conviction. Only six months after finishing the terms of her supervision, Staples received a second DUI when she caused a serious accident nearly killing two teenage girls.
According to police reports, Champaign County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the scene of the accident, a country road east of Bondville, on December 19, 2010 at approximately 9:30 p.m. The person who first reported the accident was Richard Griffith, later interviewed by deputy Christopher Darr. Griffith was standing in his garage when he heard a loud crash. The impact, he said, shook the floor of his garage. When he ran outside, Griffith saw that a SUV had run off the road, through a ditch, and hit a gas main.
As police later found out, Staples had rear ended a small SUV with two 17-year-old girls. I spoke with the driver’s mother, Kathryn Rose, who said police told her that Staples was driving her BMW approximately twice the posted speed limit of 55 mph when she hit the girls. Staples apparently gets an adrenaline rush from driving fast. Police told Rose said that if the girls had not been wearing their seat belts, they probably would have been killed.
When interviewed by police, the driver Kelsey Rose said she saw a car in her rear view mirror approaching at a quick pace. She looked down to check her speed, and then look back in the rear view mirror as she was struck from behind. The car rolled over once before striking a gas line. The passenger, Margarita Solache, also said she saw headlights in her side rear view mirror and soon after felt the impact of the crash.
According to witness Richard Griffith, Staples initially denied that she was involved in the accident, but quickly changed her story stating, “Maybe I hit them, but then maybe I didn’t.” Staples then became highly agitated and “was dropping F-Bombs all over the place.”
Among others of those interviewed by police were a paramedic and two firefighters that arrived soon after the accident. Jennifer Humer is a paramedic with Aarow who showed up in an ambulance. According to Humer, Staples stated she was an ex-police officer and had everything under control. Staples said she had hit a car but was not injured. Humer noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Staples’ breath. Staples was talking “100 miles a minute.” Then changing her story, Staples claimed that she had not hit anybody, became aggressive, and started using vulgar language.
According to one of the firefighters interviewed, Laurie Cooper, Staples said she was just a bystander who was trying to stabilize the situation. Staples denied she was in the accident. Cooper recalled a “Very strong” odor of alcohol. Staples was acting very “Hyper” and was yelling, “You aren’t going to rat hole me.” According to the police report, Cooper was aware of Staples’ previous DUI and could not believe “she is even able to drive on public roads.”
Another firefighter, James Black, said Staples was “Very intense and very hyper.” Black also stated that Staples had at first denied being involved in the accident and claimed “Somebody might have hit me.” He recalled that Staples was yelling at the paramedic and believed she was going to “take a swing” at any moment. Black thought that Staples was not only intoxicated, but also “possibly under the influence of drugs.”
The first police officer on the scene was deputy Rich Coleman who wrote in his report that he tried to calm Staples down but she told him, “fuck off rookie and I don’t need your help.” Staples initially denied that she was in an accident and then admitted “I hit a vehicle that was sitting on the street parked.” When Coleman asked for her driver’s license, Staples “took a bladed stands [sic] telling me ‘why do you want to fight?’” Staples eventually backed down. When asked if she had anything to drink, she responded, “Yes, I had two drinks at a Christmas party at Jupiter’s.” Staples worked at Jupiter’s in southwest Champaign.
The State’s Attorney’s office later received an anonymous tip from an individual who said that Staples was “very intoxicated” at the party, held at the home Jupiter’s owners, Brian and Susan Davis. According this person, Staples was pouring beer into her hand and attempting to feed it to Mrs. Davis’ cat. For this she was asked to leave the party. Deputy Christopher Darr was directed by the State’s Attorney’s office to interview the Davis couple, but according to his report the two were both brief in their answers. Asked if she had seen Staples interact with the cat, Susan Davis said she had not.
At the scene of the accident, Coleman asked Staples for a second time to produce her driver’s license. Staples instead pulled a $50 bill from her wallet and attempted to bribe the officer. “How much do you want?” she asked. Coleman told her to put the money away.
At this point, deputy Christopher Darr arrived to assist Coleman. Darr asked Staples to perform some field sobriety tests. She refused and yelled, “What are you, some fucking retard.” After talking to his superior, Coleman approached Staples to arrest her. She turned around and placed her hands behind her back stating, “So this is how it’s gonna be boys.” After placing her in handcuffs, Darr and Coleman walked her to a squad car. Staples suddenly planted her feet, bent over, and began flexing and twisting her arms. Darr placed her in a wrist lock. When he threatened to charge her with resisting arrest, she stopped struggling. Staples initially refused to get into back of the squad car, but eventually she complied. When Darr got into the driver’s seat, she began yelling, “You don’t give a fuck about me, you are just judging me like the others.” She then went on a cursing tirade against Darr, calling him a “Dum Dum.”
When they arrived at the jail, Staples continued to be uncooperative. After being booked, Darr attempted to get Staples to agree to blow into a breathalyzer but she refused. Staples then went on a rant stating, according to Darr’s report, “that she knows she is a good police officer at heart and that the system railroaded her.” This latest incident was going to cost her another $10,000, she stated. Staples tried to blame the other driver for the accident, saying that the car was sitting in the middle of the road and she “blasted it.” Staples posted a $100 bond and was out of jail three hours later.
Staples was made to serve 18 days in the county jail. She was released and appeared in drug court on July 11. After the hearing, she stood in the hallway apparently arguing with her attorney Tony Novak. The following day, July 12, Novak filed a motion to reconsider the sentence.
On August 8 at 1 p.m., Staples will be back in drug court and Judge Jeffry Ford will hear her motion.
For News-Gazette article on skydiving go to:
For article on first DUI arrest go to:
Interview with Kathryn Rose: