September 27, 2022

Online response escalates with body camera footage released

Community raises questions over arrest of 19-year-old Newton man

Tayvin Galanakis, 19, of Newton, was pulled over by the Newton Police Department in late August for illegally using his high beam headlights in town, but the traffic stop escalated when the officer suspected him of being under the influence of a controlled substance. Tests from a drug expert concluded Galanakis did not appear to be on any alcohol or drugs.

Editor’s note: The following is part one of a multi-part story regarding an alleged impaired driving investigation. Newton News was ensured comments from the city in response to the allegations and the numerous questions made by citizens, which will be included in a subsequent article.

Footage from a body camera worn by a Newton police officer on Aug. 28 shows 19-year-old college student Tayvin Galanakis being arrested and charged with driving under the influence, and then three hours later he was subsequently released with no charges after passing a round of field sobriety tests.

Footage from a cell phone owned by Galanakis shows him questioning the arresting officer, Nathan Winters, about their encounter shortly before he left the police station. The video also shows Galanakis telling Winters he wasted his time, should do a better job next time and that he should apologize.

Galanakis says he was falsely arrested and maintains he was not drunk or on any drugs when Winters put him in handcuffs that night. In a lengthy Facebook post a day later, Galanakis described his encounter with Winters. The post has since garnered more than 500 shares, comments and reactions.

“Here’s how I look at it: I think if we keep the problem at the police station, they’re not going to do anything about it,” Galanakis said of his decision to release the body camera footage he obtained from the city — along with his own cell phone videos — in a public post on social media.

GALANAKIS GETS PULLED OVER AND IS SUSPECTED OF DRINKING

In his post, Galanakis said he was pulled over for using high beam headlights in town, a claim that was backed up by Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess in a news release statement on Sept. 2. The traffic stop occurred at 12:12 a.m. on Aug. 28 near the water tower in downtown Newton.

Winters identified himself when he approached the vehicle and explained why he pulled Galanakis over. Galanakis admitted to having a broken headlight. Winters then questioned Galanakis about his car and where he was coming from while he searched for his registration. He had just finished visiting a friend’s house.

“Anything to drink over there?” Winters asked.

“Nope.”

Galanakis was having difficulty finding his registration, saying he was unsure which one was the old document and which one was new. He gave Winters both, along with his driver’s license and an electronic copy of his proof of insurance as the one he found in his vehicle expired in 2021. Winters asked him to exit the car.

Before Galanakis stepped out, Winters asked him to spit out his gum and place it on the dashboard of the car, which he did, and then asked him if he was carrying any “bombs, guns or drugs.” Galanakis chuckled and said no before being asked to sit in the passenger seat of Winters’ patrol vehicle.

INSIDE THE SQUAD CAR, GALANAKIS IS STILL SUSPECTED OF DRINKING

The two continue to have a conversation. Galanakis is a former Cardinal and is now a freshman at William Penn University. He plays wide receiver on the football team, but he did not make travel squad this year, which is why he was back home for the weekend. Winters then asked how much he had to drink.

“None,” Galanakis said.

“What do you mean ‘none?’” Winters asked.

“I’ve had nothing to drink.”

“OK. Why would your eyes be watery and bloodshot?”

Later, Galanakis informed Winters he wears contacts but took them off at his friend’s house when his eyes were irritated when being around a dog. Galanakis has allergies and keeps an inhaler on him. He also said he does not need to wear the contacts in order to drive.

Galanakis told Winters he would take a breathalyzer test, insisting he had nothing to drink. Winters said Galanakis’ fumbling over the registration when he was in the car, along with an odor of alcohol, says otherwise. Galanakis was eager to take the field sobriety tests and prove Winters wrong.

“What happens if nothing pops up? Do you get in trouble?” Galanakis asked.

Winters questioned why he would get in trouble and said he is doing his job. Galanakis asked if he could record the inevitable field sobriety test, to which Winters consented. Seconds later Galanakis pulls out his phone and records himself.

“So Officer Winters thinks I’m drinking tonight,” he said. “We’re about to do a test and he’s going to find out I had nothing to drink. And he’s going to look stupid. Ain’t that right? I love Newton cops but this guy thinks I’ve been drinking tonight. I’ve had nothing to drink. Zero. And we’re about to find out.”

MISCOMMUNICATION IN TESTING

The two exit the vehicle and move to the sidewalk to conduct the tests, along with Newton Police Lt. Chris Wing, who accompanied Winters throughout the entire traffic stop. Winters inspected Galanakis’ eyes by making him follow his finger. After about 60 seconds of following his finger, Galanakis laughs.

“How many more we got?” Galanakis asked.

“Oh this test is about two minutes long,” Winters said.

Flashlights and streetlights illuminated the scene that night. And it was raining. Galanakis complained about the rain ruining his hair and then spoke to Winters about the officer’s experience playing football in Knoxville. Winters didn’t play college ball, though, because of too many concussions, he said.

After following Winters’ finger, Galanakis was asked to walk in a straight line.

Left foot on the line to start, then the right foot in front of the left foot — with the heel of the right foot touching the toes of the left foot. Galanakis was to take nine steps with his arms to his side, turn around, then do nine steps again. Winters instructed Galanakis to count his steps out loud.

Even though he was asked if he had any questions, Galanakis was under the impression Winters would be counting for him and proceeded the test without counting. He told the officer to let him know when he got to nine steps and then asked how Winters wanted him to turn around.

Winters quietly tells himself what Galanakis had done wrong in the test: he stopped walking after 13 steps and improperly turned around. On his way back, Galanakis took 15 steps, again, not realizing he was supposed to count his steps. Already, he was celebrating.

“C’mon man. This is too easy!” Galanakis said. “Let’s do the breath now. You’re two-for-two.”

Winters disagreed and explained the infractions.

“Oh my fault.”

Winters wants to do another test before a breathalyzer. Galanakis is told to stand with his heels and toes together and his arms down to his side. By this point, Galanakis is annoyed and exclaims Winters is a rookie and is in disbelief when he finds out this is not the first year the officer has been on duty.

“How many false accusations you got?” Galanakis asked.

“Zero,” Winters said.

“This is about to be your first.”

FAILED TESTS INCREASE SUSPICION, GALANAKIS WANTS BREATH TEST

For the next test, Galanakis has to raise his left or right foot six inches off the ground and keep it parallel. While keeping that stance, Galanakis is to look at his toe and count off “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four.”

Before he starts the test Winters asked Galanakis why he is shaking so much. Galanakis, in a sweater and shorts that are above his knees, says he is freezing cold in the rain and points out he is nervous for being falsely accused of drunk driving. Galanakis proceeds to do the test and lifts his leg.

He forgets to count. Winters reminds him.

“One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. I honestly forgot how you told me. I’m doing this pretty well,” Galanakis said with his foot still hovering above the ground. “Just tell me when to switch because it’s getting pretty cold now. This is ridiculous.”

Winters relents and lets Galanakis relax before another eye test. Winters said he is going to move his finger around in a circular motion around Galanakis’ face but he will not touch him. Galanakis just has to follow with his eyes and not move his head when following his finger.

Galanakis is frustrated and wants to take a breathalyzer test and then asks who his supervisor is. Wing, on scene, indicates he is Winters’ supervisor.

But Winters isn’t finished. There is another test. Galanakis stands with heels and toes together and arms down to his side. When Winters tells him to begin, Galanakis has to estimate the passing of 30 seconds, close his eyes and then tilt his head back. Winters inspects Galanakis as he has his eyes closed.

Thirty seconds pass and Galanakis opens his eyes. Another test. Before they start he asks if he can obtain the body camera footage. Wing says he can if he subpoenas it. Galanakis said he would have recorded the tests if his battery was not so low. Winters proceeds with the test.

He tells Galanakis to make a fist with his hands, rotate his palms and then extend his index fingers. Winters gave him a series of commands, left or right. Depending on what he says, Galanakis has to raise that hand and touch his nose with the tip of his finger and then put his hand back down.

All the while he has head tilted up and his eyes closed. Galanakis does all the commands. Still standing in the rain, Galanakis gets impatient and wants to conduct the breath test.

“Stop doing all these damn tests. Let’s blow. Let’s get to business,” he said. “…I used to love Newton cops. Used to love ‘em. Never give me no problems. Until now. My beams were on because I have a tail light out. Not my tail light. One of the bulbs out front is out. That’s why I put ‘em up. I didn’t know it was illegal.”

COPS WERE WRONG ABOUT ALCOHOL BUT NOW THINK IT’S DRUGS

Back at the hood of the squad car, Winters pulls out a breath test and tells Galanakis he is showing “strong signs” of impairment. Wing mentioned Galanakis’ issues with the paperwork at the start of the stop and tells him he was not consistent or smooth, which he said is a “telltale sign.”

Within a few seconds Galanakis takes the breath test. The body camera footage shows zeros, suggesting he is not under the influence of alcohol.

Without telling him the results of the test, Winters begins reading Galanakis his Miranda rights. Then, the officer asked him the last time he smoked marijuana. Galanakis paused and said he does not remember.

“Tonight?” Winters asked.

“No. No weed tonight, man. I’ve had no weed tonight. Why do you think it’s tonight? I blew zeros so now you’re trying to think I smoke weed? That’s what’s going on. You can’t do that. You really can’t do that. Is he allowed to do that?” Galanakis said, turning to Wing. “So I blow zeros and he suspects drugs now?”

Winters said the sobriety tests were indicative that Galanakis was impaired and then questioned him again if he smoked marijuana at his friend’s house.

“Why is your field sobriety so poor and why are you so lethargic and slow moving and speaking with a slurred speech?” Winters said. “And your eyes are watery and bloodshot.”

Galanakis argued his eyes are watery because of the rain. Winters argued his eyes were watery and bloodshot in their cars. Galanakis said he does not smoke weed, saying since he is on the football team they get tested regularly. Despite his protests, Winters maintains his belief that Galanakis is impaired.

Winters asked if Galanakis wanted to talk to another officer, to which he agrees. He also agreed to let an officer conduct a drug influence evaluation. Wing told Galanakis he doesn’t have to stand in the rain to do those tests. Galanakis then asked to call his parents. They say he can.

His mom answers the phone. Galanakis tells her what has happened. This is harassment, he says. The call ends. Winters said they all have to go to the police station to do the tests. Galanakis decided now he doesn’t want to. He wants to go home. Winters pulls out his handcuffs and places Galanakis under arrest.

“What in the world?” Galanakis said. “Sir? What in the world? I’m not intoxicated!”

BACK AT THE STATION, EXPERT SEES NO INDICATION OF INTOXICATION

Winters arrested Galanakis for operating while intoxicated. Galanakis protests but does not resist. In the back of the squad car, he continues to express his disbelief. Wing said if a police officer has probable cause to suspect someone is under the influence, he or she can place that person under arrest.

At the station, Galanakis is asked to confirm he doesn’t want to take the drug influence evaluation. Galanakis changes his mind again. He’ll take the test.

Winters gives another officer his side of the events. He said Galanakis was pulled over for having his brights on, and at the traffic stop he acted slow, fumbled through the registration and was lethargic. He also said that Galanakis failed field sobriety tests and hesitated when asked the last time he smoked weed.

When Galanakis was being processed, Winters asked him again the last time he smoked weed. Galanakis said he didn’t know but estimated it was more than a year ago. Winters was skeptical why he didn’t tell him at the scene.

Afterwards, the drug expert interviewed and tested Galanakis. To him, his eyes did look “a little bloodshot.” At the end of the test, the officer concluded he had no information to suggest Galanakis was under the effects of drugs or alcohol, and he was free to go home. Before he left, Galanakis wanted to speak to Winters.

Using his phone to record their interaction, Winters defended his actions and said Galanakis had failed his tests. Winters said he had been wrong many times and recommended next time that Galanakis ask for clarification if he does not understand the instructions.

“You wasted my night,” Galanakis said. “…We can’t have this happen in Newton. I love Newton. I want you to do a better job. OK? I’m a citizen here. I love Newton cops. You’re probably a good guy, right? I’m a good guy. I don’t have any record. And you do that to me. There’s other guys partying out in Newton right now breaking the law. Actually breaking the law.”

Galanakis maintained his breath did not smell like weed or alcohol and did not see how Winters could make the arrest. Winters suggested he had probable cause because of the failed tests and had to put him in handcuffs because Galanakis changed his mind and refused the drug influence evaluation.

“I deserve an apology,” Galanakis said.

“I guess I’m sorry,” Winters said.

COMMUNITY REACTS, POLICE CHIEF GIVES INSIGHT TO PROCESS

Days after the incident, Galanakis’ post garners a lot of attention on Facebook. And again when he shares body cam footage. Several folks were sympathetic and rallied behind him. They criticized the police department for their handling of the situation, calling it a disappointment and recommending Galanakis get an attorney.

Liz Hammerly, a Newton school board member, expressed her sympathy in the post and hoped changes could be made. She also reminded people to not “lump everyone together” in a negative way. The police department serves the schools and do a “tremendous job” for the community.

Newton News reached out to the police chief for comment on Sept. 2 and received the following statement in a news release:

“At approximately 12:12 a.m. on August 28, 2022, Newton Police Department conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for driving with its high beam headlights on. The driver was identified as 19- year-old Tayvin Galanakis.

“Upon speaking with the driver, the officer conducting the stop observed indicators of possible impairment. Galanakis was asked to perform standardized field sobriety tests; and consented to perform the tests. He failed two of the three standardized field sobriety tests and showed indicators of impairment on additional tests conducted on scene. A breath test showed no presence of alcohol, and Galanakis refused an opportunity to be examined by a drug recognition expert at the time. He was placed under arrest for driving while impaired.

“After being placed under arrest, Galanakis was taken to the Newton Police Department, where he voluntarily consented to an evaluation by a second Newton Police Officer trained as a drug recognition expert. He passed the standardized field sobriety tests and other impairment assessments during that examination. After the exam, in the drug recognition expert’s opinion, it was concluded that Galanakis was not impaired.

“Impaired driving investigations are a dynamic and complex process that requires police officers to utilize their training and experience to identify behaviors and actions of a driver that is consistent with impairment. These investigations involve the use of standardized field sobriety tests as well as other forms of assessments to measure things such as balance and physiological responses. Although alcohol and drug impairment is consistently the primary reason a driver would fail these tests, there are other factors that may contribute to failed tests or observations that are consistent with impairment. These factors include, but are not limited to; medical conditions, prescription medication, injuries, vision problems, tiredness, environmental issues, mental state and the driver’s ability to follow instructions.

“In this case, once the drug recognition expert was able to complete a thorough examination, it was clear Galanakis’ performance on the standardized field sobriety tests and other assessments was impacted by reasons other than impairment by alcohol or drugs and he was subsequently released without charges.”

Still, the community has not quelled their questions or their probing, specifically into the background of Winters. Galanakis told Newton News he plans to contact a lawyer, feeling like a police officer saw a young man driving in the middle of the night and suspected wrongdoing for those factors.

Galanakis recalled when the officer asked if he had anything to drink.

“I felt like right when he got to my window and he asked me that question I knew he was going to pin something on me right away,” Galanakis said. “I feel like from his standpoint it was just to instigate until he got what he wanted. But he never got what he wanted because I was innocent.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.