Lake County Deputy Was High During Fatal Crash: Police

Depty went back to work after crash that killed wife

A former Lake County deputy who retired in 2008 worked for nearly four months after being charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, and the sheriff is none too happy about it.

On April 14, 2007, Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Drew Pranke was involved in a serious accident on I-80 in Jasper County, Iowa, in which his wife Susan was killed and he was severely injured, according to a release from the sheriff's office.

Pranke spent nearly a month in an Iowa hospital following the accident, before being transferred to the Lake Forest Hospital and later to a rehabilitation center in Chicago, the release said. On Aug. 7, 2007, he was able to resume his duties in the Criminal Investigations Division.

Sheriff Mark Curran said Tuesday that during the months of rehab, "when other officers were donating their salary to help Pranke and his family," the Iowa State Police never mentioned anything out of the ordinary.

Police had cited only a blown tire as the cause of the accident, in which the vehicle flipped over. So Pranke was allowed to return to work until he retired in May 2008, Curran said.

Unknown to Curran, however, an arrest warrant for Pranke was issued in Iowa on Jan. 11, 2008. A blood draw conducted after the accident showed that both Pranke and his wife were under the influence of cannabis.

Pranke was arraigned on April 23, 2008, on one count of driving under the influence, and on Aug. 13, 2008, he plead guilty and was sentenced to two days in jail and a fine, the release said.

This past weekend, Pranke was stopped by a Lindenhurst police officer for a traffic violation and it was determined his license had been revoked. That was the first time Lake County officials became aware of the Iowa situation, Curran said.

"I am tremendously disappointed that another law enforcement agency would allow him to go to work, with a gun, knowing the severity of the charges he faced, without notifying us," Curran said.

“Drew Pranke took advantage of this office after his return to work and has disgraced the badge and this office with his profound dishonesty," he said.

He cited a departmental rule that states an officer must notify the sheriff if he is under suspicion or has been arrested for any misdemeanor or felony charge; or when his driving privileges are suspended or revoked.

“Had the Iowa State Patrol been forthcoming with this information, I would have filed administrative charges against Pranke with our Merit Commission in order to take disciplinary action, which would have included the possibility of termination," he said.

Curran said he is discussing the matter with the Lake County State's Attorney's office for possible criminal charges, and also with the Merit Commission to see what, if any, action can be taken against Pranke, including termination of pension.

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