The Washington Post

Police: Secret Service agent caused March 7 crash in South Florida before Obama visit


President Obama greets people as he arrives at Homestead Air Reserve Base outside Miami on March 7. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

A Secret Service officer suspected of drinking caused a late-night traffic accident in South Florida just 12 hours before President Obama arrived March 7 for an education speech and a long weekend with his family, according to a police report.

The 27-year-old counter sniper, Mathew Reyes, had a “slight odor” of alcohol on his breath, and a state trooper responding to the incident in Islamorada administered a field sobriety test, the report said. But “no detection of impairment was observed,” according to the report.

The Florida Highway Patrol trooper released Reyes after citing him for failing to yield to oncoming traffic and ultimately causing the accident. The report released Thursday provides new details about the incident, which was first reported by The Washington Post .

A Secret Service spokesman acknowledged the accident when asked about it by The Post on Wednesday and said the officer involved was not given a Breathalyzer test. Instead, he was given a pen-eye test, in which drivers are asked to follow a pen with their eyes as the officer moves it in the air, the spokesman said.

Under Florida law, it is illegal for adults older than 21 to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

Read the document

Secret Service

Police report from Fla. accident

Two U.S. Secret Service officers on a presidential trip were involved in a traffic accident March 7 in the Florida Keys when their vehicle collided with a truck.

Reyes and a second officer in the car were sent home early from Obama’s trip after they reported the incident to superiors, officials said.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the two officers were sent home out of “an abundance of caution” because a police report had not been issued at that point. He declined to say whether the officers were in violation of a rule forbidding any drinking within 10 hours of an assignment.

“There have been no personnel actions to date,” Donovan said. “There are ongoing investigations.”

The accident occurred at 1:24 a.m. on March 7, just outside the luxury Cheeca Lodge & Spa resort. Reyes was leaving a grocery store parking lot with Mark Sedlak, a fellow counter-sniper officer in the Secret Service Uniformed Division, in a rented Dodge Caravan.

Reyes tried to cross both lanes of Highway 1, the beach road that runs the length of the Florida Keys, to enter the resort. The van was struck on the side by a fully loaded Publix Supermarkets trailer truck. The trooper who responded to the accident described the truck as moving at a slow rate of speed when it hit the van.

Obama, along with the first lady and their two daughters, arrived in Miami aboard Air Force One in the early afternoon of March 7. The president and Michelle Obama then traveled to a high school, where Obama gave a speech about his administration’s investments in education.

Afterward, the first couple took helicopters to the Ocean Reef Club, an exclusive private resort in Key Largo, about 35 miles from where the Secret Service officers were involved in the accident. The Obamas remained there until March 9, when they returned to Washington.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson had a meeting with senior managers a week after the traffic accident, telling them that questionable behavior on the road had to stop, according to two people familiar with the briefing.

Over the weekend, three agents were sent home from the Netherlands after one was found passed out in the hallway of their hotel. The incident occurred a day before Obama arrived at the start of an official visit to Europe and Saudi Arabia.

David Nakamura contributed to this report.

Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability.

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