September 27, 2022

Mayor defends police action and denies allegations against officer

City responds to arrest of Newton man after escalation on social media

Tayvin Galanakis, 19, was pulled over  in late August by Newton police for using his high beams in town. Officers suspected him of drunk driving, but when a breathalyzer showed no signs of alcohol consumption, they accused him of smoking weed. Galanakis was placed under arrest after he changed his mind about taking a drug evaluation. When he took that same evaluation at the station, it showed no evidence of impairment or drug use. He was then released. Galanakis shared his experience online and it subsequently went viral.

Editor’s note: The following is part two of a series of stories regarding an alleged impaired driving investigation. The previous article analyzed the incident through body camera footage obtained by Newton News, and it included statements from the victim and the police chief. Included here are communications from the city.

Two weeks after 19-year-old Tayvin Galanakis was falsely arrested by Newton police for driving under the influence, the mayor released a statement Sept. 13 defending the officers who conducted the traffic stop and condemning the individuals who have shared what he calls a false narrative around one officer.

In the statement, Newton Mayor Mike Hansen said he, the city administrator, the police chief, command staff and city attorney reviewed the incident and found the stop “was handled according to police departmental policy and according to the law,” and that neither the officer nor the lieutenant violated the law.

Officer Nathan Winters carried out the traffic stop while Lt. Chris Wing supervised nearby. Galanakis was pulled over for using his high beam headlights in town. It was a little past midnight on Aug. 28 when police detained Galanakis, who said he was on his way home from a friend’s house.

According to Winters, Galanakis was fumbling around when trying to retrieve proof of registration. Winters suspected Galanakis was drunk, claiming he could smell alcohol on him and that he displayed signs of impairment. Galanakis, a freshmen football player at William Penn, adamantly denied drinking alcohol.

Although Galanakis was flippant and made errors in his field sobriety tests, a breathalyzer found no evidence of alcohol consumption. Regardless, Winters read Galanakis his Miranda rights and changed his line of questioning. Instead of drinking alcohol, Winters now suspected Galanakis of smoking marijuana.

When Galanakis changed his mind about taking a drug influence evaluation, Winters placed him in handcuffs and took him to the police station. Officer Andrew Shinkle conducted the evaluation and found no information to suggest Galanakis was under the effects of drugs or alcohol. He was free to leave.

Hansen said the officers are not responsible for the situation and blamed Galanakis for not operating his vehicle in accordance of the law and for failing to listen to the officers’ requests. The mayor said Galanakis chose to insult the officers instead and failed to follow instructions in the field sobriety tests.

“Newton police officers are charged with keeping our community safe and that includes removing impaired drivers from our streets—including people who fail field sobriety tests,” Hansen said. “I am proud that, despite Mr. Galanakis’ repeated insults and disrespect toward the officers, they handled this incident in a professional manner.”

Following the traffic stop, Galanakis shared his experience on Facebook, which caught the attention of numerous people in the community. Eventually, he shared an edited compilation of the body camera footage, which only seemed to reinforce the perspective that Newton Police Department was in the wrong.

Hansen said the videos circulating online are edited and incomplete. In a response to the mayor’s statement, Galanakis admitted to Newton News the video was edited from three hours worth of footage, and he maintained that everyone will “see the same results” in the unedited footage.

Regardless, the mayor noted the complete body camera footage is to be available on the city’s website at www.newtongov.org.

MAYOR ADDRESSES COMMENTS DIRECTED AT WINTERS’ BACKGROUND

Almost as soon as Galanakis shared his experience with Newton police officers, people began recounting their bad interactions with law enforcement — or with Winters and Wing, specifically — in the comments. Others shared screenshots of a domestic abuse case involving Winters from Iowa Courts Online.

The mayor criticized Galanakis and others for making what he called “false and defamatory statements” against Newton police officers and for spreading a “false allegation” that Winters was convicted of domestic abuse.

“This is simply not true,” Hansen said in his statement. “The individuals posting this false information, and continuing this false narrative, should be ashamed of themselves. A person convicted of domestic abuse would not be able to serve as a police officer.”

As a result of these allegations and the subsequent body camera footage that was shared by Galanakis, the mayor said the dispatch center and local law enforcement agencies were inundated with hundreds of telephone calls from people outside the state complaining about the incident.

“This influx of calls from outside of our community took public safety telecommunicators away from their primary duty of answering emergency calls and dispatching emergency responders,” Hansen said. “We are fortunate that these disruptions to public safety operations have not led to injury or death.”

Hansen concluded his statement by saying he is proud of the work the Newton Police Department does on a daily basis. Crime rates are at an all-time low, he said, because of those officers.

“Our police officers should not be vilified for doing their job to keep our community safe,” Hansen said. “I, for one, am extremely thankful for everything our officers do and know the majority of our community feels the same way.”

Galanakis said the claim of domestic abuse comes from Iowa Courts Online, which shows there is a case categorized as a civil domestic abuse (DACV) between Winters and another woman, resulting in a mutual protective/no-contact order. Several people shared screenshots of the filings in the post.

In a few instances, however, the comment section incorrectly referenced the wrong domestic abuse case, which the city was quick to point out.

Newton City Administrator Matt Muckler backed up Hansen and told Newton News that Winters has never been charged with domestic abuse or any other criminal offense. The Nathan Winters referred to on social media as being charged with domestic abuse is a different person, Muckler said.

When questioned about the no-contact order placed on Winters, Muckler said it is a mutual protective order between the officer and former girlfriend.

Muckler added, “It is not an order put in place due to the conviction of an offense or even something put in place after the presentation of evidence. These types of orders do not prohibit a person from serving as a police officer, nor does it prohibit someone from carrying a firearm as part of their official duties.”

Newton News learned the protective order between Winters and his former girlfriend states he is restrained from committing any further acts of abuse or threats of abuse. So although no criminal charges were filed against Winters, the act of a domestic abuse is implied through the order itself.

However, the order also has an added stipulation that allows Winters to conduct official police business.

Tayvin Galanakis, right, and a friend wear customized T-shirts referencing his traffic stop with Newton Police Department. Galanakis was suspected of driving while under the influence and was placed in handcuffs. When he was tested at the station, it was determined he was not impaired or under the effects of drugs or alcohol.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE HAS REACHED BEYOND NEWTON

The traffic stop has garnered a wider audience, especially after Galanakis released his compilation of the body camera footage on YouTube.

Even unintended audiences were exposed the incident. The Boston College student newspaper, The Heights, reported on Sept. 15 that the Newton Police Department in Massachusetts received several calls and complaints that were meant for the Iowa-based police station of the same name.

In a Facebook post on Sept. 9, the Newton, Mass., police department said the complaints were even coming from social media, all pertaining to the Galanakis traffic stop in Newton, Iowa. The out-of-state station reminded its residents the incident does not involve the City of Newton in Massachusetts.

Of course, locals were already reacting to the incident. And it even spilled over into a public meeting.

At the Sept. 5 city council meeting, Galanakis and a friend attended the meeting wearing customized T-shirts saying: “Arrest me I’m sober” and “I wear shorts when it’s -30 … Congratulations.” The latter comment was a quoted exchange between Galanakis and Winters.

Noah Petersen, a former Newton resident, defended Galanakis by disrupting the city council meeting on multiple occasions. When it came time for citizens to express their opinions on certain topics, Petersen would step up to the podium and call for the Newton Police Department to be defunded.

Hansen told Petersen he was out of order three times before asking Newton Police Lt. Chris Wing to escort him from the building. Petersen called Wing a clown and taunted him while being kicked out of the council chambers. Galanakis acknowledged Petersen and thanked him for standing up for him.

Noah Petersen, right, is told to keep order by Newton Police Lt. Chris Wing after disrupting the city council meeting with comments condemning the police department. Petersen's comments were in reference to the false arrest of 19-year-old Tayvin Galanakis.

Dale Hiller, a YouTuber who manages the page LackLuster, which has more than 554,000 subscribers, released a video titled “Driver Blows 0.00% - Officers Still Lock Him Up” where he reviews the body camera footage and offers commentary and potential motivations of each person in the video.

As of Sept. 16, the video has garnered more than 400,000 views.

Commentary from Hiller points out that Galanakis’ answers to Winters’ questions during the traffic stop are creating a narrative in which he can be arrested, and the YouTuber advised listeners to refrain from answering questions from law enforcement officers and to refuse field sobriety tests when applicable.

However, refusing the test can also be used against individuals in court. Hiller ended the video by saying he is not an attorney or offering legal advice.

“But I urge you to record everything, shut the heck up and learn the laws that pertain to your state,” Hiller said in the video.

Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator and founder of The Daily Wire, also shared a three-and-a-half-minute clip of the body camera footage on his Facebook page. The video has garnered more than 900 reactions, more than 800 comments and more than 840,000 views.

In his statement, Galanakis said he was fortunate to have his story heard across the nation.

“I’m even more fortunate that the whole town of Newton is standing with me and I want to thank the community for not tolerating this kind of behavior. When the people of the community are the ones setting the example and not the mayor, something is wrong there,” Galanakis said.

“He figuratively doesn’t represent us if we have to show him how it’s done. Same with the chief of police. Do better.”

Here is the mayor’s full statement:

“Now that the investigation is complete, I feel compelled to provide an update related to public safety in the City of Newton and correct some defamatory information about the August 28, 2022, traffic stop of Tayvin Galanakis. The City of Newton continues to be transparent about this matter since it happened. A news release remains on the City website explaining the incident in detail. I encourage everyone to read that release, which can be found at www.newtongov.org.

“Mr. Galanakis was pulled over for driving without headlights, which were inoperable, and instead using his high-beam headlights. Mr. Galanakis failed two field sobriety tests and showed signs of impairment on additional assessments. Our officers are trained to screen drivers for more than just alcohol use, so a breathalyzer test is only one check in the process. Mr. Galanakis refused to be screened by a drug recognition expert and was therefore placed under arrest for driving impaired. After arrest, he was transported to the Newton Police Department, where he changed his mind, voluntarily underwent screening by a drug recognition expert, was found to not be impaired, and was subsequently released with no charges.

“The police officer conducting this stop utilized his body camera throughout this incident and it is clear that the videos circulating online have been edited and are incomplete. Therefore, the complete footage is now available on the City website at www.newtongov.org. One of our police lieutenants was also on scene during the stop and both the officer and lieutenant conducted the stop appropriately and according to their training. In addition to the police chief, the police command staff, the city administrator, the city attorney and myself have all reviewed the incident and found that the stop was handled according to police departmental policy and according to the law. Neither the officer, nor the lieutenant, violated any law, policy or procedure.

“The officers are not responsible for this situation. Mr. Galanakis, rather than operating his vehicle in accordance with the law and listening to the officer’s requests, chose to insult the officer throughout the stop and failed to follow instructions. Newton police officers are charged with keeping our community safe and that includes removing impaired drivers from our streets—including people who fail field sobriety tests. I am proud that, despite Mr. Galanakis’ repeated insults and disrespect toward the officers, they handled this incident in a professional manner.

“Over the past two weeks, Mr. Galanakis and others have made false and defamatory statements against the officers on social media, including the false allegation that one of the officers involved was convicted of domestic abuse. That is simply not true. The individuals posting this false information, and continuing this false narrative, should be ashamed of themselves. A person convicted of domestic abuse would not be able to serve as a police officer.

“Due to the false allegation and subsequent videos that have been created, our dispatch center and local law enforcement agencies received hundreds of telephone calls late last week, almost exclusively from outside the State of Iowa, with complaints about the incident. This influx of calls from outside of our community took public safety telecommunicators away from their primary duty of answering emergency calls and dispatching emergency responders. We are fortunate that these disruptions to public safety operations have not led to injury or death.

“I am proud of the work that our fully-staffed, highly-trained, and professionally-managed police department does on a daily basis for our community. Crime rates are at all-time low levels in our community because of them. Our police officers should not be vilified for doing their job to keep our community safe. I, for one, am extremely thankful for everything our officers do and know the majority of our community feels the same way.”

Here is Galanakis’ response to the mayor:

“Well, this is just what I expected from the leadership. And that’s exactly why I took it into legal action right away. Instead of apologizing for the officers ‘mistake,’ he had an excuse for every aspect of the story. Now, of course the video is edited, there’s three hours worth of footage. Everyone can go ahead and watch the unedited version, they’ll see the same results.

“Like I said, I never expected the mayor to do anything about it. He’s going to continue doing nothing like he always has since he got in office. Now I’m no expert or anything, but when one of your innocent citizens gets arrested for no reason, you’d think the mayor of your own town would have some sympathy. The mayor can continue playing damage control but the truth is already out there. The claim of domestic abuse comes from Iowa courts online, anyone can search it up for themselves.

“I’m not the enemy here like the mayor is making it seem. The real enemy is the guy who allowed Winters on the force. I mean, yeah, I feel bad for the guy, I feel like he couldn’t help the way he was behaving after I heard the ‘I wear shorts when it’s 30 bellow’ comment. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. I thought to myself: ‘Is the department really this desperate for officers?’

“It’s the leadership, guys and gals, these are the people setting the tone, and right now it’s low as can be.

“It goes back to their training and mindset. It starts with a new standard. These past couple weeks have shown the current methods are not standards. They are ‘I’m bigger and have more authority than you, so I can do whatever I want’ type of deals. The community wants improvement in leadership, not excuses.

“Years ago Newton policemen had the same sort of aura as a doctor, medic, firefighter and pilots. Now it seems like they are viewed as aggressors and bullies. That’s where the change needs to happen and when traffic stops have this happen all the time it will not lead to improvement in the Newton Police Department.

“I was fortunate enough to have my story heard across the nation. I’m even more fortunate that the whole town of Newton is standing with me and I want to thank the community for not tolerating this kind of behavior. When the people of the community are the ones setting the example and not the mayor, something is wrong there. He figuratively doesn’t represent us if we have to show him how it’s done. Same with the chief of police. Do better.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or at 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.