Special Operations Commander Fired After Being Arrested for Alleged Drunk Driving, Hit and Run

Maj. Houston Hodgkinson.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James presents the 2014 Secretary of the Air Force leadership award to then-Squadron Officer School student Capt. Collin Christopherson, May 5, 2014, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bud Hancock)

A commander of a special operations squadron in Florida has been removed from his role after he was arrested and accused of driving under the influence, hitting a vehicle, and leaving the scene after causing damage to a person or property.

Lt. Col. Collin Charlie Christopherson, the commander of the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron, was arrested Saturday by the Shalimar Police Department and later booked into the Okaloosa County Jail, according to jail logs and an arrest report reviewed by Military.com. Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles, a spokesman for the 1st Special Operations Wing, said Christopherson's removal from his command stemmed from the arrest incident.

"The Air Force has a strict zero-tolerance policy for illegal activity conducted by its members on or off base and holds commanders to the highest standards," Charles told Military.com. "Lt. Col. Christopherson has been removed from command of the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron."

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Christopherson, 37, had been the commander of the squadron for nine months, according to Charles. The unit, based out of Hurlburt Field in Florida, is in charge of maintenance on the AC-130U Spooky and AC-130J Ghostrider gunships, according to its website.

Shalimar Police Department, patrolling a small town near Fort Walton Beach and Eglin Air Force Base, detailed the incident in an arrest report provided to Military.com.

Around 4:42 p.m. on Feb. 18, police responded to a call reporting that a blue Toyota truck was driving recklessly down a local road and couldn't stay in one lane. Prior to an officer arriving on the scene, dispatch reported that the truck collided with a white car at a traffic light and then departed the scene, according to an arrest report.

An officer later located the truck and pulled the driver over. The driver told the police officer he had "messed up," according to the arrest report. He gave the officer his military ID, which identified him as Christopherson.

The arrest report said the officer smelled a "strong odor of Alcoholic beverage emanating" from Christopherson and that the service member "lost his balance and almost fell to the floor" when asked to exit the vehicle.

The arrest report also detailed an open container of Jim Beam on the passenger front floorboard.

Christopherson was then taken away from his vehicle by another officer while a deputy located a white Kia sedan that had allegedly been hit by the truck. The sedan had also collided into another vehicle as a result of the crash.

Christopherson requested an attorney and refused to answer any questions; he also declined to take a Breathalyzer test.

It is not clear from the arrest report whether anyone suffered bodily injury as a result of the crash, but Shalimar Police Department Chief John Cash told Military.com that "no one was transported, per that report."

Christopherson was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail around 10 p.m. Feb. 18 and released the next day around 1:30 p.m., according to Okaloosa Department of Corrections booking logs, after posting a total of $15,000 in bond money related to the charges.

Christopherson did not respond to calls and messages left by Military.com at several numbers listed in public records tied to him. It is not yet clear whether he has retained an attorney.

The 1st Special Operations Wing said it is cooperating with the local police department's investigation and did not disclose any additional details.

"The allegations are currently under investigation by local authorities; in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we cannot discuss the details," Charles told Military.com. "Driving under the influence is a serious crime that is not tolerated in the Air Force. When an allegation is brought to our attention, we will investigate it promptly, and if the allegation is substantiated, we will take appropriate disciplinary action."

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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