LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Lawyers from the Arkansas Attorney General’s office are denying many of the claims in a lawsuit brought by a pregnant driver who was stopped by a trooper using a PIT maneuver.
In a filing on Wednesday, the state attorneys representing Sr. Cpl. Rodney Dunn, Sgt. Alan Johnson, Colonel Bill Bryant and the Arkansas State Police answered the complaint from Nicole Harper and asked the Pulaski County Circuit Court to dismiss the case.
Harper alleges in her suit that she was following guidance set forth in Arkansas driver training guides during a traffic stop by Trooper Dunn in July 2020 on Highway 67/ 167 outside Jacksonville.
She said she slowed her vehicle, turned on her hazard signals and was trying to find a safe place to stop on the roadway, which she claimed had a reduced shoulder.
Harper, who was pregnant with her daughter at the time of the incident, said it was just over two minutes after Dunn turned on his patrol vehicle’s blue lights that the trooper used the Precision Immobilization Technique, striking the back corner of her SUV with his patrol vehicle, spinning Harper out of control and into a concrete median, putting the vehicle on its top.
In the response filed Wednesday, state attorneys admit that Dunn did shine his spotlight on Harper’s SUV and use the PIT maneuver to stop the vehicle, and also agree that Harper had turned on her emergency flashers.
They are contending most of Harper’s other claims, though, and say that Dunn, his supervisor and the state police are protected by state law, noting that Dunn was following procedure during the stop.
Dunn, his supervisors and the ASP are also demanding that if the case moves forward it will do so with a jury trial.
A FOX 16 Investigates report on Harper’s lawsuit made international headlines recently and was the latest in a number of stories looking at how state troopers employed the PIT maneuver with a growing frequency in Arkansas traffic stops over the past couple of years.
Records from the ASP obtained by FOX 16 News show that between January 2017 to December 2020, officers attempted to or pitted drivers at least 306 times. Half of those happened in 2020.
Those records do not reflect a complete total since ASP says it can only pull records of PIT maneuvers that have been processed by the department, a process that can take months.
Records obtained by FOX 16 INews show many pursuits that resulted in a PIT started as minor traffic violations, like improper lane change and speeding.
According to ASP policy, the decision to use a PIT maneuver falls on the officer involved in the chase, and there are some vehicles where a PIT cannot be used on, including “trucks carrying hazardous materials, pick-up trucks with passengers in the bed of the truck, vans or buses occupied with passengers who appear to be victims, or motorcycles.”
Later Wednesday afternoon after the filing from the attorney general’s office had been submitted, the case was moved from the circuit court to the federal docket, where it is now in the court of Judge Billy Roy Wilson in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.