An Arkansas woman is suing a state trooper, alleging that during a traffic stop, he used a dangerous pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver, causing her vehicle to flip on its top as she attempted to pull over.
Janice Nicole Harper’s lawyer filed the lawsuit in Pulaski County, the county seat of Little Rock, last month. Harper, who was two months pregnant at the time of the incident on July 9, 2020, claims Arkansas State Police Trooper Rodney Dunn was negligent in performing the PIT maneuver, which resulted in a car accident.
Harper said she slowed down but didn’t pull over right away because there was nowhere safe to do so.
“The shoulder did not have enough room for my car alone, but my thoughts were also he, the officer, didn’t need to be standing beside my car there. Like there literally was not enough room,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
The suit also names Alan C. Johnson, an Arkansas State Trooper and Dunn’s supervisor, as well as Col. William Bryant, the director of the Arkansas State Police.
According to the lawsuit, Arkansas State Police failed to train Dunn on how to properly initiate a traffic stop on a road with a severely reduced shoulder and how to perform a proper and safe PIT maneuver.
The Arkansas State Police have been contacted by CNN for comment. Dunn’s whereabouts are unknown, and it’s unclear whether he has an attorney.
Harper was speeding on US Highway 67 when Dunn clocked her — she was going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone, according to the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Dunn activated his emergency lights to bring Harper to a halt. Harper put on her blinkers, slowed to 60 mph, and moved into the right travel lane seconds after the trooper activated his overhead lights.
When stopped by the police, drivers should activate their turn signal or emergency flashers to indicate they are looking for a safe place to stop and pull over to the right side of the road, according to the Arkansas Driver License Guide.
According to the lawsuit, Harper was unable to safely stop her vehicle on the right or left shoulder due to concrete barriers and a reduced shoulder on both sides of the road.
“If you watch a little bit more of the video … it was a little bit before where he hit me, you’ll notice a sign that says the exit is one mile away. Just after he hit me, the road kind of turns and it opens up. And the shoulder does get bigger. There is more space. And it would have been so much safer,” Harper said.
Harper is seen in the right lane with her hazard lights on and slowing down on dashcam video from Dunn’s patrol car the night of the incident. Dunn allegedly performed a PIT maneuver on Harper’s vehicle, causing her to lose control and flipping the car on its top, according to video obtained by CNN.
“There were no exits or shoulder for Plaintiff to safely exit the highway, before Defendant Dunn negligently executed a PIT maneuver on Plaintiff’s vehicle two minutes and seven seconds after Defendant Dunn initiated his Arkansas State Police patrol cruiser overhead lights, which caused Plaintiff’s vehicle to flip.” the lawsuit stated.
“Because I didn’t feel safe,” Harper is overheard telling Dunn.
“I thought he was getting on to me, telling me I was doing something wrong, and in my mind I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. And I was trying to keep us both safe,” Harper said.
Harper was ticketed for speeding and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, according to Denton.
The trooper, according to Harper, could not have thought she was attempting to flee.
“I don’t understand how they’re charging me with fleeing when I wasn’t fleeing. That doesn’t make any sense at all to me,” she said.
Harper told the trooper she was pregnant as she tried to get out of the flipped SUV, according to the video. Harper’s attorney told CNN that his client suffered undisclosed injuries in the accident and sought medical attention. According to attorney Joe Denton, Harper’s unborn child was not harmed. The baby is now four months old and doing well, according to Harper.
“Defendant Dunn’s conduct constituted a reckless attempt to engage in conduct that created substantial risk of physical injury to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit read.