Little Rock, AR – A woman is suing the Arkansas State Police (ASP) for using a pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver to stop her vehicle after she failed to immediately pull over for a trooper’s flashing lights and siren last summer (video below).
The speeding driver’s vehicle crashed and flipped onto its roof as a result of the maneuver.
The incident occurred on July 9, 2020, as Janice Nicole Harper, 38, was speeding down U.S. Highway 167 in Pulaski County, KABC reported.
ASP Senior Corporal Rodney Dunn clocked Harper traveling 84 miles per hour, which was 14 miles per hour above the posted speed limit, according to the lawsuit.
A widely-circulated dashcam clip showed the stop as it was already underway, and it is unclear what events preceded the start of the video.
The footage showed Harper’s SUV flying around the trooper and then moving into the right-hand lane.
The edited video cut out and picked back up an unknown period of time later, so it does now show how long Cpl. Rodney had been trying to stop Harper or what occurred as he was following her.
According to the lawsuit, Harper claimed the shoulders of the roadway were too narrow and that she wanted to pull off at an exit so it was safer, NBC News reported.
“It’s essentially a bowling alley with bumpers on both sides,” her attorney, Andrew Norwood, told the news outlet. “There’s nowhere to go; you’re boxed in by concrete barriers on both sides.”
The lawsuit alleged Cpl. Dunn used a PIT maneuver to stop Harper two minutes and seven seconds later, NBC News reported.
The suspect’s vehicle veered out of the view of the dashcam after the maneuver.
Cpl. Dunn made a U-turn and the video showed Harper’s SUV had flipped onto its roof.
He immediately radioed for EMS and jumped out to help the suspect.
“Why didn’t you stop?” he asked as he got Harper out of the crashed vehicle.
“Because I didn’t feel like it was safe,” she said. “I’m pregnant!”
“Well ma’am, you’ve got to pull over when [the police stop you],” Cpl. Dunn calmly replied. “When people don’t stop for emergency vehicles, we end this right here, right now, before you get further into congested traffic.”
He noted that all she had to do was “slow down and stop.”
Harper argued that she slowed down and turned on her hazard lights.
“I thought I was doing the right thing,” she said, just before the clip cut out.
It is unknown what transpired after the edited video ended.
Harper, who was two months pregnant at the time of the incident, was transported to the emergency room for an evaluation, NBC News reported.
According to her lawsuit, Harper “suffered severe bodily [injuries]” due to the “negligent” PIT maneuver, KABC reported.
The doctor was unable to detect the baby’s heartbeat that night, and she believed her unborn child was killed in the crash, according to her lawsuit.
“She cried herself to sleep,” Norwood told NBC News.
Harper’s OB-GYN was able to detect the baby’s heartbeat the next morning.
She gave birth to a daughter in February, NBC News reported.
Harper was charged with failing to yield to an emergency vehicle and speeding as a result of the incident.
ASP Director Colonel Bill Bryant issued a statement in May explaining that officers are utilizing PIT maneuvers more frequently in recent years because more suspects are fleeing from them and refusing to pull over, KARK reported.
“Over the past five years Arkansas State Troopers have documented a 52 percent increase in incidents of drivers making a conscious choice to ignore traffic stops initiated by the troopers,” Col. Bryant said. “In more populated areas of the state, the incidents of fleeing from troopers have risen by more than 80 percent.”
The director noted that fleeing suspects often place other citizens and law enforcement officers at significant risk of injury or death by traveling “at a high rate of speed, wildly driving, dangerously passing other vehicles, [and] showing no regard for the safety of other motorists,” KARK reported.
However, the law draws a distinction between safe driving while failing to yield to lights and sirens, and reckless driving while attempting to escape from law enforcement. Failing to yield to an emergency vehicle is a non-criminal offense.
ASP troopers have all been training in the use of PIT, to include ongoing annual training.
“There’s a fundamental state law none of us should ever forget,” Col. Bryant wrote. “All drivers are required under Arkansas law to safely pull-off the roadway and stop when a police officer activates the patrol vehicle emergency lights and siren. The language of the law is crystal clear. Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle displaying the signal to stop, the driver must pull-over and stop.”
PIT maneuvers are one of several techniques that have proven to be effective tools to stop drivers who are putting other citizens at risk, he said.
“In every case a state trooper has used a PIT maneuver, the fleeing driver could have chosen to end the pursuit by doing what all law-abiding citizens do every day when a police officer turns-on the blue lights – they pull over and stop,” Col. Bryant added.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning – Graphic Content:
Arkansas state cop Rodney Dunn signals a driver to pull over.
The driver, a pregnant woman, puts on her hazards and drives to a safe place to pull over.
Dunn hits her, causing her to crash and flip. He gets out and scolds her.
No charges have been filed against Dunn. pic.twitter.com/XOMtpRtZgd
— Spike Cohen (@RealSpikeCohen) June 9, 2021