An Arkansas woman is suing a state trooper after she claims he performed a dangerous pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver during a traffic stop, which caused her vehicle to flip on its top as she attempted to pull over.
An attorney for Janice Nicole Harper filed the lawsuit last month in Pulaski County, the county seat of Little Rock. Harper, who was two months pregnant at the time of the July 9, 2020, incident, alleges Arkansas State Police Trooper Rodney Dunn negligently performed the PIT maneuver that resulted in a motor vehicle collision.
Harper said she slowed down, but didn’t immediately pull over because there was no safe place for her 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.
Alan C. Johnson, an Arkansas State Trooper and Dunn’s supervisor, along with Col. William Bryant, Arkansas State Police director, are also named in the suit.
The suit also states that Arkansas State Police failed to train Dunn in the appropriate manner of initiating a traffic stop on a road with extremely reduced shoulder and in proper and safe PIT maneuver technique.
CNN has reached out to the Arkansas State Police for a statement. CNN has not been able to reach Dunn, and it is unknown if he has an attorney.
According to the lawsuit, Harper was traveling on US Highway 67 when Dunn clocked her speeding — she was going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone. The suit states that Dunn activated his emergency lights to initiate a stop on Harper. Within seconds of the trooper initiating his overhead lights, Harper turned on her blinkers and dropped her speed to 60 mph and moved into the right travel lane.
According to the Arkansas Driver License Guide, when drivers are being stopped by the police, they should activate their turn signal or emergency flashers to indicate they are seeking a safe place to stop and pull over to the right side of the road.
However, due to concrete barriers and a reduced shoulder on both sides of the road, Harper was unable to safely stop her vehicle on the right or left shoulder, according to the lawsuit.
“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.
Dashcam video from Dunn’s patrol car on the night of the incident shows Harper traveling in the right lane with her hazard lights on and slowing down. In the video obtained by CNN, Dunn performed a PIT maneuver on Harper’s vehicle allegedly causing her to lose control, flipping the car on its top.
“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.
Dunn was seen in the dashcam video approaching the wreckage. As he helps her out, he is heard asking her, “why didn’t you stop?”
Harper is heard telling Dunn “because I didn’t feel like it was safe”.
“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 cited in the incident for speeding and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, Denton said.
But, according to Harper the trooper could not have thought she was trying to get away.
“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.
The video also shows that Harper told the trooper she was pregnant as she attempts to get out of the flipped SUV. An attorney for Harper told CNN his client did sustain undisclosed injuries in the accident and sought medical treatment. Harper’s unborn child was not harmed, according to attorney Joe Denton. Harper told CNN the baby is now four months old and doing well.
“Defendant Dunn’s conduct constituted a reckless attempt to engage in conduct that created substantial risk of physical injury to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit read.