A Detroit-area man accused of allowing his 9-year-old daughter to drive him around after a day of drinking is a good father who did a stupid thing, then bragged about it at a gas station while a surveillance camera rolled, a friend said Tuesday.
Even the detective investigating the bizarre middle-of-the-night incident said Shawn Weimer "appears to be a decent father" who simply drank too much and made a terrible decision.
"She made a point of saying she loves her dad," Brownstown Township police Lt. Robert Grant said in an interview, referring to the girl. "It was a terrible, egregious error in judgment, especially with alcohol."
At Weimer's request, a judge postponed a key hearing Tuesday that will determine whether the 39-year-old Romulus man will stand trial on child abuse charges over the Oct. 8 incident. There is no allegation that he physically harmed his daughter, who the arresting officer found sitting ina booster seat behind the wheel of the 2000 GMC van.
"No doubt about it, he was wrong," said friend Michael Wheatley, 20, who has installed carpet and plumbing with Weimer. "A sober Shawn wouldn't have done that in a million years. ... Shawn drinking and Shawn sober are 110 percent different people."
Weimer declined to comment outside of court. His attorney, Michelle Aaron, said she needed more time to see the evidence, including the gas station video. Weimer is barred from being with his daughter or anyone under 18 while the case proceeds. He does not live with his daughter's mother.
"It's a criminal matter, it's serious," Aaron said. "I'm going to make sure his rights are protected."
Weimer and his daughter stopped at a Citgo station around 2:30 a.m. for gas, cigarettes and a snack. A surveillance camera inside the store shows him loud and boisterous, hugging and rubbing the bald head of another customer, as he brags about the girl's driving skills. She smiles and seems pleased while holding the stick of a caramel apple with both hands.
"What are they going to do _ pull me over? ... We're leaving and she's driving. I'm drunk," Weimer said.
An employee alerted gas station owner Albert Abbas, who was working in a back room. He said he called police while another customer followed the van from the Citgo station.
"Nobody really believed him," Abbas said Tuesday. "Then we saw he was serious: His daughter was in the driver's seat."
When a Brownstown Township officer stopped the van, the girl said Weimer "always lets her drive" and stated that she was "driving great and did not do anything wrong," according to a police report.
Weimer, meanwhile, smelled strongly of alcohol and said he had consumed a "few drinks," the officer wrote.
"Wouldn't you let your kid drive?" he asked, according to the officer.
Weimer's blood-alcohol level was not determined because he refused to take a test at the police station.
Later, the girl told Grant that her father had been drinking a "large bottle" of whiskey, the police report said. She was turned over to a grandfather.
In addition to child abuse, Weimer is charged with being a habitual offender because of past convictions for robbery and possessing stolen property. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.