Nicole Harper was driving 84 miles per hour in a 70-mph zone last summer near Jacksonville, Arkansas when a police officer noticed her car breaking the law and decided to give her a ticket. What happened next, however, is yet another example of police officers overstepping their legal boundaries, using excessive and unwarranted force in an attempt to “enforce” the law.
Biba Adams of The Grio reported that “Trooper Rodney Dunn flashed his lights and activated his siren to pull her over for the speeding infraction, but Harper told the Pulaski County Circuit Court that she tried to find a safe space to pull over. While she claims she slowed her speed, activated her blinkers and changed lanes to pull over, Harper says the officer used a ‘pursuit intervention technique’ on the dark U.S. Highway 167.”
In other words, Dunn decided Harper wasn’t responding fast enough, so he used his car to bump into the back of hers at high speed, causing her to lose control of the vehicle, flipping it over in the process.
To make matters worse, Harper was two months pregnant at the time.
In dashcam footage provided to NBC News, officer Dunn is seen approaching Harper’s vehicle and asking her, “Why didn’t you stop?”
“Because I didn’t feel like it was safe,” Harper responded.
“Well, this is where you ended up,” the trooper replied. “Ma’am, you got to pull over.”
According to Adams, Harper “feared her baby had died as a result of the accident, but [fortunately] her daughter was born healthy in February. However, she still faced a speeding ticket and a fine of up to $400 for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.”
Officials say the incident occurred incredibly quickly — with barely enough time for Harper to process what was going on. Just over two minutes pass from when Dunn first flashed his patrol lights to when he “tapped” Harper’s vehicle, causing it to spiral out of control and leave the frame of the recording.
In her lawsuit, Harper has alleged that she didn’t know where she could safely pull over for the officer because the stretch of U.S. 167 where she was driving had incredibly narrow shoulders. The next exit where she could leave the freeway was less than a mile away.
“I feel like I had heard that’s what you do; you slow down, you put your flashers on, and you drive to a safe place,” Harper said in a statement following the accident.
Adams reported that her reasoning is supported by instructions found in the Arkansas State Police Driver License Study Guide, in a section telling new drivers “What to do when you are stopped.”
Local news reporters have recently come to Harper’s defense, especially since the Arkansas State Police troopers have begun using the “PIT maneuver” of tapping motorists’ vehicles more often as of late. Records show it was used on at least 144 motorists in 2020 — more than double the number of times in 2019. In several of those incidents, the PIT maneuver also caused auto accidents and even death.