Pregnant woman suing Arkansas cops after PIT maneuver flipped her car says she was not speeding

The woman suing Arkansas State Police after a trooper flipped her car during a chase said that she was not speeding at the time of the crash and that the charges against her do not make sense. 

Nicole Harper, 38, who was pregnant at the time, was clocked at 84 mph in a 70 zone, according to the civil lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court last month.

She slowed to 60 miles per hour at the time of the impact July 9, on US Highway 167 in Jacksonville, Arkansas, she said.

Senior Cpl. Rodney Dunn ‘negligently performed’ the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT), which sent her car careening across lanes before flipping, the suit says. 

She was charged with speeding and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.   

Nicole Harper (right) told CNN host Chris Cuomo the simple reason she did not pull into the nearest shoulder was because there was not enough room

A woman is suing an Arkansas State Police officer after he flipped her car during a pursuit while she was pregnant

A woman is suing an Arkansas State Police officer after he flipped her car during a pursuit while she was pregnant

‘I don’t understand how they’re charging me with fleeing when I was not fleeing, that does not make any sense to me,’ she said on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time Thursday.

She said her baby, who is now four months old, is doing ‘perfect’ despite the accident. 

Harper explained that she did not pull into the nearest shoulder because there was not enough room. ‘Honestly the shoulder did not have enough room for my car alone but my thoughts were also the officer didn’t need to be standing beside my car there, there literally was not enough room,’ she said.  

Harper’s lawsuit says Dunn was ‘unable to safely stop her vehicle on the right or left shoulder due to concrete barriers and a reduced shoulder being on both sides of the road… leaving [her] no room to safely pull over her car.’

After Dunn turned on his cruiser’s lights and siren, Harper slowed to 60 mph and turned on her emergency lights.

Dunn continued following Harper’s vehicle for about two minutes before hitting its back left bumper, sending the car into a concrete barrier.

Harper told Cuomo prior to being hit by the officer she saw a sign for a nearby exit where she planned to pull over. 

‘If you watch a little bit more of the video before he hit me you’ll notice a sign that says the exit is one mile away,’ she told Cuomo. ‘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.’

Cuomo asked if maybe Harper did not stop because she thought the police were going to hurt her, which she said never crossed her mind. 

‘I never would have thought the police would hurt me,’ she said. ‘I didn’t feel like there was an adequate amount of space on the side of the road for my car and the officer to be standing beside it.’ 

The Arkansas Drivers License Manual instructs drivers to ‘pull to the nearest/safest spot out of the traffic lane (do not stop on bridges or overpasses).

Nicole Harper was driving 60 miles per hour at the time of the incident, which happened on US Highway 167 in Jacksonville, Arkansas on July 9, 2020

Nicole Harper was driving 60 miles per hour at the time of the incident, which happened on US Highway 167 in Jacksonville, Arkansas on July 9, 2020

The PIT maneuver: How police stop fleeing cars with trick inspired by anti-terror tactics

The Pursuit Intervention Technique, or PIT, is aimed at stopping fleeing vehicles.

The chasing police vehicle pulls alongside so it’s front bumper is just in front of the fleeing car’s back bumper. 

The officer then gently makes contact with the other vehicle, before turning sharply toward it. 

This causes the fleeing vehicle to lose traction and spin sideways – ideally to a gentle stop. 

But the maneuver is highly controversial, as it causes the fleeing vehicle to lose control, and can even cause it to flip – especially at high speeds.

Since 2016 at least 30 people have been killed and hundreds injured when police used the PIT maneuver to end pursuits, The Washington Post reports.

The tactic was reportedly developed by Germany’s federal police to take out terrorist cars that were threatening convoys, and was introduced to the US by private driver training firm BSR in the 1970s, according to the Intercept.  

Dashcam footage of the incident, obtained by Harper’s legal team, shows the patrol car pursuing Harper’s vehicle before ramming the bumper, causing it to swerve out of frame.

The police vehicle with the dashcam then makes a U-turn and approaches the Harper’s car, which is flipped over and smoking. The airbags have inflated and debris is littering the side of the highway.  

The footage shows Dunn chiding Harper as he tries to help her out of the vehicle.   

Dunn asked her why she did not pull over, to which Harper responds ‘I thought it would be safer to wait until the exit’ 

‘No ma’am, you should pull over when law enforcement stops you,’ he replied, trying to help Harper out of the vehicle. 

When asked if she was alone in the car she says, ‘I’m pregnant!’ 

Cuomo asked Harper about Dunn’s line of questioning following the accident. 

‘I mean I thought like he was getting on to me,’ she said. ‘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.’

Despite speeding charges, she said because she was only driving between 60- 65 mph, there is no chance the officer could have believed she was speeding to get away from him. 

‘My hazards were on I had clearly slowed down,’ she said. 

An investigation by NBC News in May revealed an increasing use of PIT maneuvers by Arkansas State Police.

At least 30 people have died and hundreds more have been injured by PIT maneuvers since 2016, The Washington Post reported, adding that 18 of those deaths occurred after police tried to stop a driver for speeding or other minor traffic violations.  

Arkansas State Police and other forces use the maneuver to intentionally hit cars during chases, causing them to spin out.  

‘There’s a fundamental state law none of us should ever forget. 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,’ said State Police Director Colonel Bill Bryant in a statement reported by The Independent.

‘Should a driver make the decision to ignore the law and flee from police, state troopers are trained to consider their options.

‘Based on the totality of circumstances a state trooper could deploy spike strips to deflate the tires of the vehicle being pursued, execute a boxing technique to contain the pursuit slowing the driver to a stop, execute a PIT maneuver or terminate the pursuit.

‘Most Arkansas State Police pursuits end without a PIT maneuver being utilized.’

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