HPD investigator convicted with DWI, appeals

A Hickory Police investigator is appealing his DWI conviction, after a single-car wreck in December.

Officer Robert Joseph Falowski, 42, of Claremont, was convicted Thursday on a level five driving while impaired charge in Hickory District Court. Falowski's attorney, Gene Sigmon, filed an appeal in the ruling, which is on its way to the District Attorney's Office for a date in superior court.

With the conviction, Falowski was given a 60-day suspended sentence, 12 months of unsupervised probation and 24 hours of community service, which has to be completed within 30 days of his conviction.

In addition, he has to surrender his driver's license and submit to a substance abuse assessment. Falowski also has to pay $1,108 in fines, which includes $600 lab fees, $250 for community service, $100 fine and $158 court costs.

The O-N-E first reported on Falowski's accident Dec. 16.

According to a North Carolina Highway Patrol Crash Report, Falowski was driving north Dec. 4 in a 1998 Jeep on Rock Barn Road about 6:30 p.m., when he ran off the right side of the road and hit a mailbox. He then crossed the center line, hit a stop sign, traveled into a field and struck a tree. Falowski was traveling at 45 mph during the incident, which is the listed speed limit, according to the report. Falowski then allegedly left the scene.

NCSHP Trooper R.E. Rudisill cited Falowski for drinking and driving after the trooper noticed Falowski had "an odor of alcohol coming from his breath" and "red, glassy eyes," according to court documents.

Falowski submitted to a blood test at 9:41 p.m. that night to determine if he was impaired while driving. Falowski called an attorney and/or a witness to be present at the time of the blood test, according to court documents. He was treated for injuries at Catawba Valley Medical Center on Dec. 4.

Damage to Falowski's Jeep was estimated at $1,000. Damage to the mailbox, which belonged to a resident on Rock Barn Road, was about $100.

After the December incident, Falowski was placed on administrative duties with the Hickory Police Department.

Falowski was an investigator in the Zahra Baker case. His name appears on a Hickory Police Department warrant to search Zahra Baker's former residence, located at 21 21st Ave. NW in Hickory.

The warrant includes information about how Zahra Baker's stepmother Elisa Baker, led police to locations where the child's body was disposed, as well as information about items seized from the former Baker residence.

The warrant, signed and dated Oct. 29 by Catawba County Superior Court Judge Nathan Poovey, lists Falowski as an investigator with Hickory Police Department.

According to the search warrant, Falowski has been a law enforcement officer for 19 years and is assigned to the Criminal Investigations division. He graduated from the North Carolina Criminal Investigators Academy and has more than 2,000 hours of training.