Arkansas woman suing police after short chase ends with state trooper flipping her car
JACKSONVILLE, Arkansas / NBC News — A pregnant Arkansas woman’s car flipped on its roof by a state trooper who accused the driver of not pulling over fast enough, according to video of the brief chase that’s being used in her lawsuit.
Nicole Harper, 38, went to bed on July 9, thinking her unborn child died in the crash on U.S. Highway 167 in Jacksonville, Arkansas, her lawyer Andrew Norwood said.
“She cried herself to sleep,” Norwood said.
Harper was going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone when trooper Rodney Dunn flashed turned on his siren and flashed lights for her to pull over, according to her lawsuit filed last month in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Dashcam video, obtained by Harper’s legal team, appeared to show her slowing, activating her blinkers, and changing lanes to the right, so she could eventually pull over, Norwood said.
But on the stretch of southbound U.S. 167, the shoulders are narrow and Harper wanted to pull over safely at an exit, the motorist has claimed.
“It’s essentially a bowling alley with bumpers on both sides,” Norwood said. “There’s nowhere to go; you’re boxed in by concrete barriers on both sides.”
The pursuit was 2 minutes and 7 seconds long when the trooper tapped the back of Harper’s car in a “pursuit intervention technique,” more commonly known as a “PIT maneuver,” the lawsuit said.
The tap caused Harper’s car to suddenly veer left and out of the dashcam’s view. The trooper immediately did a 180 and circled back to see the red SUV on its top, footage showed.
The trooper’s action “constituted a reckless attempt to engage in conduct that created substantial risk of physical injury,” Harper’s civil complaint said.
In the video, the trooper approached Harper’s flipped car and as he helped her out of the wreckage asked: “Why didn’t you stop?”
“Because I didn’t feel like it was safe,” she answered
“Well this is where you ended up,” the trooper responded. “Ma’am you got to pull over.”
The Arkansas drivers license manual urges motorists to pull “to the nearest/safest spot out of the traffic lane” when police are exercising a pullover.
In the emergency room that night, a doctor told the two-months pregnant Harper that a fetal heartbeat could not be detected and she believed the baby had died, Norwood said.
But an exam by her OB-GYN the next morning did pick up the heartbeat, and Harper’s daughter was born in February.
In addition to speeding, Harper is being charged with failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, which carries a maximum penalty of a $400 fine.
A spokeswoman for the Arkansas state police declined comment on both the lawsuit and the July 9 incident.
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