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Erie County sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Harris arrested on felony DWI charge

His breath smelled of alcohol, his eyes were bloodshot and his words were slurred, but Daniel Harris managed to say he was an Erie County sheriff’s deputy when a West Seneca police lieutenant stopped him, authorities said.

The fact that he was an off-duty deputy did not stop the lieutenant from charging Harris, 28, with felony drunken driving, unsafe driving and traveling at an imprudent speed. Next week, Harris will answer to those charges in West Seneca Town Court.

“He has been placed on administrative leave without pay and it will remain that way until the case is adjudicated. The Sheriff’s Department will then take the appropriate employment action,” sheriff’s spokesman Scott Zylka said Monday. “There’s also an ongoing investigation by our Professional Standards Division.”

This was not the first time Harris has been arrested on an alcohol-related driving charge while he was off-duty.

At about 2 a.m. Jan. 16, 2012, he crashed his vehicle into a house in Akron, ruining the laundry room and shocking the couple sleeping inside the home. His blood-alcohol content measured 0.15 percent and he was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Harris pleaded guilty and was fined $1,000, ordered to attend a drunken-driving program and write a letter of apology to the family whose house he damaged.

On Aug. 26, 2011, Harris crashed into an auto on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation near Akron, causing minor damage. The other driver said Harris had a “dazed look” and smelled of alcohol. The driver called 911 and sheriff’s deputies and Akron police responded to the Crittenden Road crash.

The other driver said police assured him the accident was Harris’ fault and that they were issuing him tickets. But it was later determined that, though Harris was given traffic summonses, he was not cited for any alcohol-related infraction.

Information on Harris’ driving history was reported in a 2012 Buffalo News story on police and other officials who sometimes get off lightly in traffic accidents through a practice known as “professional courtesy.”

In Harris’ latest arrest, at about 2 a.m. Sept. 22, West Seneca police say he was spotted driving faster than the 45 mph speed limit on Clinton Street near French Lea Road.

After being pulled over in the 1800 block of Union Road and identifying himself as a deputy, Harris told police he was driving home from a Clinton Street bar.

“The suspect had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath, slurred speech and red, glassy eyes,” Lt. David Wright stated in an arrest report obtained by The News through a Freedom of Information request. “The suspect said he had a couple mixed drinks while at Nickel Creek.”

Wright performed field sobriety tests and Harris succeeded at reciting the alphabet and counting his fingers, but was unable to stand on one leg. He swayed from side to side and had to raise his arms for balance. Six times he tried unsuccessfully to place a finger on the tip of his nose with his eyes closed, and when asked to walk and turn, he staggered and lost his balance.

At the police station, after consulting his union representative, Harris declined to take a Breathalyzer test. His vehicle was impounded and he was released to a Sheriff’s Office supervisor.

Zylka said he was prohibited by law from discussing personnel information on Harris, but said the department was aware of his previous DWI arrest.

Harris is to be arraigned by West Seneca Town Justice Jeffrey M. Harrington at 7 p.m. Oct. 6.

News Staff Reporter Matthew Spina contributed to this report. email: lmichel@buffnews.com