Former HPD officer charged with DWI after crashing into business, fleeing

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by Andrew Horansky & Vicente Arenas / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 22 at 11:28 PM

HOUSTON — The suspected drunk driver who fled the scene after crashing into a lighting company in northwest Harris County Thursday night was tracked down and placed under arrest.

Harold Clayton Jr., a former officer with the Houston Police Department, was charged with DWI and failure to stop and give information.

Clayton, driving a Chevy Tahoe, crashed into The Lighting Gallery located in the 6200 block of FM 1960, sending bricks and glass flying everywhere. A witness who saw the crash followed Clayton to the Promenade Apartments in the 5900 block of W FM 1960 and alerted authorities.

“I was amazed. I was about right over here and I couldn’t believe the guy was trying to get out,” Jason Vaughn, a witness, said. He caught recorded the incident on his camera.

Vaughn was working next door when he heard the tires blow, and saw the sports utility vehicle racing through the parking lot.

“I’m just thankful that no one was hurt and we didn’t have a store full of customers,” Ann Morgan, whose father owns The Lightning Gallery, said.

The owner Dave Schmitt had closed the gallery a few minutes earlier. He said the business has been at this location for 40 years. He added that the crash was like a bad dream.

Witnesses said the Tahoe was moving as fast as 60 miles an hour when it crashed. They could hear the grinding and screeching off metal as the driver tried to back out of the building.

“It bounced over the curb and hit and we were amazed that he was backing up to get out of the building,” Vaughn said.

The truck finally broke free and traveled down FM 1960 even though it was heavily damaged.

A short time later, deputies arrested and charged Clayton after witnesses back at the scene identified him.

This is Clayton’s third DWI charge in the last six years. He was arrested and charged with DWI in 2008, while he was still a member of the police force. That case was dismissed.

Clayton retired in 2009. He was arrested again on DWI charges early this year in February.

Crews at the store have started to clean up the mess including bumpers left behind in the parking lot.

The Lighting Gallery posted a message on its marquee saying it would be temporarily, “Closed due to reckless driving.”

The owners plan to reopen once the holes are patched and cleaned up.

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