August 19, 2014

Father of ‘affluenza’ teen arrested, accused of impersonating officer

Fred Couch, 48, displayed a police badge on July 28 in North Richland Hills, but he has never been a licensed police officer in Texas, authorities said. He is the father of Ethan Couch, who is in rehab after killing four people in a drunken driving wreck.

The father of so-called “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch was arrested Tuesday morning, accused of impersonating a police officer during a disturbance call last month in North Richland Hills.

Fred Couch repeatedly told North Richland Hills patrol officers that he was a reserve officer with the Lakeside Police Department and he displayed what appeared to be a police badge and ID, North Richland Hills police said Tuesday.

But investigators later determined that he was not a reserve officer at Lakeside and he has never been a licensed police officer in Texas, said North Richland Hills investigator Keith Bauman in a news release.

Couch was taken into custody shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday and booked into the North Richland Hills Detention Facility. He was released later in the day after posting $2,500 bail.

Couch faces a charge of false identification as a police officer, misrepresentation of property, Bauman said.

Couch and his family made national news earlier this year after then-16-years-old Ethan Couch was sentenced to 10 years probation for driving drunk and causing a crash that killed four people and injured 12 others.

During testimony in juvenile court, a psychologist testified that Ethan Couch was a victim of “affluenza,” a term used to describe a mental state of reckless behavior brought on by wealth and the actions of his parents.

Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Ethan Couch to probation, prompting a firestorm of criticism, and ordered his parents pay $1,170 a month toward their son’s rehab treatment at a state mental health facility.

In the Fred Couch case, North Richland Hills patrol officers responded to a disturbance call at a residence at 1:17 a.m. on July 28 in the 4400 block of Mackey Drive in North Richland Hills.

“When officers arrived, he was there,” Bauman said Tuesday. “Officers didn’t know if he was a witness or what, but he had been in the area.”

As officers investigated the call, Couch stated he was a reserve officer in Lakeside near Lake Worth, about 15 miles west of North Richland Hills.

After completing the call on Mackey Drive, officers re-contacted Couch at the scene and he talked to them about the Lakeside Police Department and told them that he had his “police stuff” in his truck.

Bauman said that Couch reached into his pickup, took out his wallet and displayed what appeared to be a police badge and an identification card, suggesting that he was a police officer.

Officers soon allowed Couch and everyone to leave the scene, Bauman said.

Detectives continued to investigate Couch and determined that he wasn’t a reserve officer in Lakeside.

It was in Lakeside where, on Feb. 19, 2013, police found Ethan Couch last year with a 12-ounce can of beer and a 1.75-liter bottle of vodka. A Lakeside officer gave Ethan Couch two citations — one for being a minor in possession of alcohol, the other for consuming alcohol as a minor, according to previous news reports.

In March 2013, Ethan Couch pleaded no contest in both cases and received a probated sentence. As terms of his probation, Ethan Couch agreed to take an alcohol awareness class and participate in 12 hours of community service, to be completed by June 19, 2013.

But about 11:45 p.m. June 15, 2013, Ethan Couch was driving drunk when he caused the crash in the 1500 block of Burleson Retta Road in south Tarrant County, killing Breanna Mitchell, 24; Hollie Boyles, 52, and her daughter Shelby, 21; and Brian Jennings, 41.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Related content


Editor's Choice Videos