Video shows Pierce threatening police, planning to call in political favors during drunk driving arrest

Published 9:20 pm Monday, August 23, 2021

SALISBURY — Appearing to briefly fall asleep on the front of a police car, Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce is shaken by the Salisbury Police officer conducting the sobriety test.

Officer H.M. Lindquist asks him a question.

“I didn’t ask you to lean back on my car,” Lindquist tells Pierce while steadying him with a hand on his arm. “All I wanted you to do was tilt your head back. Are you able to do that?”

Following a brief conversation with his wife, Pierce looks up.

What I’m able to do is take your job and your job,” Pierce said, pointing a finger first at Lindquist and then at another nearby officer.

It was one of several threats the Rowan County commissioner levied while being arrested June 27 for driving while impaired and failure to maintain lane control. The two-hour ordeal was captured on body cameras worn by Lindquist and other officers in addition to dash cameras stationed in police cruisers. The footage of Pierce’s arrest was released to the Salisbury Post and WBTV on Monday after an order last week by Superior Court Judge Richard Gottlieb.

The footage starts with Lindquist pulling Pierce over around 6:40 p.m. after a person reported him as a reckless driver. After briefly following Pierce, Lindquist stopped the commissioner on a small side street near the intersection of West Innes Street and Statesville Boulevard.

Lindquist approached the passenger door of Pierce’s gold 2015 GMC SUV where his wife, Melissa, sat. Lindquist explained why he pulled Pierce over and asked about the starting and ending points of his drive. The commissioner and his wife respond they were headed home from an event at Morgan Ridge where Pierce said he’d had “two glasses” of wine. 

Later in the video, Pierce said it was a fundraising event to raise money for “abused women and children.” It’s not clear whether the Morgan Ridge venue is the business’ vineyard in rural Rowan County or its brewery in downtown Salisbury.

“It’s a damn shame when you give people money and get locked up,” Pierce said in the video.

When asked by Lindquist how drunk he was on a scale of zero to 10 (with 10 being the drunkest he’d ever been), Pierce responded he felt like a two. After entering Pierce’s driver’s license information and calling for a police sergeant to supervise the situation, Lindquist asked Pierce to exit the vehicle. Footage from a dash camera showed Pierce stumbling out of the driver side door, nearly falling over and regaining his balance with help from officers.

With Pierce propped up on the front of his police car, Lindquist asked him the time of day. Pierce responded by saying “about six o’clock.” It was after 7 p.m.

Next, Lindquist asked Pierce the day of the week. Pierce said it was Friday.

“I’m retired, so I don’t know what the day is,” Pierce said. 

The incident occurred on a Sunday.

Pierce correctly identified the street he was driving on before Lindquist guided him to the sidewalk along Innes Street to conduct another sobriety test on “flat ground.” As the two walk over, Pierce claimed orthotics cause him to walk with a slant.

“My orthotics don’t allow me to walk straight,” Pierce said about 23 minutes into the video.

Once on the sidewalk, Pierce became frustrated and told Lindquist and another nearby officer that he would sue them and have them fired. 

After walking Pierce back to his police car, Lindquist attempted to conduct more sobriety tests. When Lindquist asked Pierce to hold his palms out and form a fist, Pierce quickly said “no” before folding his arms.

Lindquist then asked Pierce why he didn’t want to complete the test.

“Because Kevin told me not to do that if I got arrested,” Pierce said. 

The “Kevin” Pierce referred to is Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten, who Pierce said he was going to call.

“You’re not going to stop me from calling the sheriff,” said Pierce, while being physically stopped by Lindquist from returning to his car.

Later in the video, Pierce told Lindquist he called Auten and that the sheriff said he’d “take care of it tomorrow.” However, there’s no footage of Pierce calling the sheriff.

Pierce mentioned several other politicians by name during his arrest, including Sen. Carl Ford and County Commissioner Mike Caskey. Pierce also mentioned Gov. Roy Cooper, telling Lindquist he insulted the governor to his face.

After difficulty with the breathalyzer in his car, Lindquist handcuffed Pierce and transported him the the Salisbury Police Department for a test. Then, while Lindquist worked to prepare a breathalyzer inside the department about an hour and 17 minutes into his body camera video, the county commissioner said he was not a threat while driving home.

“I endangered whose lives? Nobody. Nobody,” Pierce said.

Pierce lectured Lindquist about his job while denouncing the arrest.

“You think arresting me is going to be something that makes everything OK? No,” Pierce said. “You need to go out here and arrest these drug dealers. You need to go out here and arrest these people that are selling fentanyl. That’s that you need to be doing. Not worrying about me.”

Pierce also threatened to defund the Salisbury Police Department multiple times, but he later contradicted that statement by saying he “has nothing to do with the Salisbury Police Department.”

As a Rowan County commissioner, Pierce votes on the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office budget, but he doesn’t have direct influence over the Salisbury Police Department’s budget, which is approved by the Salisbury City Council. 

Lindquist attempted several times to conduct a breathalyzer test, but he struggled to do so because of Pierce’s inability to blow for a long enough period of time. After several attempts, Pierce grew frustrated and called for an attorney in a profanity-laden rant.

Finally, Lindquist obtained readings of 0.27 and 0.26 — both of which are more than three times the legal limit of 0.08. 

After taking Pierce’s mugshot and collecting fingerprints, Lindquist led him back to his police car and drove him to the magistrate’s office. Once in the car, Pierce told Lindquist he drove six other people home from the Morgan Ridge event because he didn’t want them driving home drunk.

“I had six other people that I said, ‘Look, let me take you guys home.’ Which I did and maybe that was my mistake,” Pierce said. “But at least people got home without drinking. Well, they were drinking. Without driving after drinking.”

Then, as Lindquist started to drive over to the magistrate’s office, Pierce pondered the arrest’s effect on his electoral prospects.

“It’s a good thing I’m not running again because this right here would ruin it,” Pierce said, adding that he doesn’t want to be a county commissioner anymore. “I don’t like the board I’m having to work with.”

Pierce was first elected to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners in 2012. Pierce won a second and third term in 2016 and 2020, respectively. As a commissioner, Pierce is one of five people who make decisions about county government’s budget, hire and fire the county manager and make other policy decisions.

Pierce’s driving while impaired charges are still pending in court. He’s next scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 22. He’s being represented in court by the Davis Law Firm.