[Audra] Harmon had been driving home with her 15-year-old son, whom she had just picked up from wrestling practice, and 5-year-old daughter. She said she was resting her right hand on her cheek as she pulled behind a sheriff’s deputy to make a right turn onto the road where she lived. After she made the turn, the deputy pulled off the road to let her pass, then pulled out behind her with his lights flashing and siren blaring.
The deputy, Sean Andrews, who has been taken off patrol duty while his department conducts an internal investigation, told her he was ticketing her for talking on her cell phone.
“I was driving with my hand on my cheek, and I think that’s what he saw,” Harmon told Vieira. “After I had given him the chance to look in my purse, check for a cell phone, then he manufactured the ticket with speeding. Again, I told him that he was wrong; I wasn’t speeding, either. Then we went back and forth.”
The speeding charge Andrews cited was doing 50 in a 45 mph zone. The officer said he didn’t use radar, but had paced her car at that speed for several seconds.
The standard advice to motorists during traffic stops is not to get out of the car unless instructed to by police. But Harmon wasn’t thinking of that. She wanted to see the evidence that she was speeding, so she left her white van and began walking back to Andrews’ cruiser.
“I wanted to see the tape. I knew that he was lying. I knew that I wasn’t speeding. I knew that I wasn’t on the cell phone. I wanted him to show me the tape,” she told Vieira.
Harmon sat in the car hanging onto the steering wheel as the deputy grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the vehicle. As she was standing on the road talking to him, he pulled his Taser. She tried to get back in the van and he fired.
At no time in the dash-cam footage does Harmon appear to be acting belligerent. “I never swore. My hands were not flailing away. I posed no threat to him,” Harmon said.
Nevertheless, Andrews fired his Taser, despite Harmon begging him not to do it in front of her children. The first shot hit her heavy winter jacket and gave her a mild shock. The officer is seen turning her to face him, then firing another shot that stuck in her chest. Harmon falls to her knees and is pushed face-first onto the pavement and handcuffed.
Here’s the video of the incident:
Now, many of you will look at that video and say that she never should’ve gotten out of the car to begin with, but even if that’s conceded it’s plain from the video that she got right back in the car when the officer told her to and that he proceeded to drag her out of the car so he could use the taser on her. In fact, when the first taser shot had no impact — because it apparently hit the thick winter coat she was wearing — he turned her around so that he could get a clear shot at her chest.
After seeing that video, prosecutors dropped all the charges against Harmon, including both the speeding and cell phone charges and disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The incident, and Harmon’s lawsuit, however, still raise some interesting questions:
Should the woman have just accepted the cell phone ticket and not attempted to prove she didn’t have one? Should she have just accepted the speeding ticket that seemed to be retaliation for proving her innocence with the cell phone? Why should she have to endure the hassle of obtaining the dash video and wasting her time in traffic court to prove her innocence? Was the cop right to taser and arrest her? What should happen to him?
Based simply on the dashboard video, it seems pretty clear that this officer overstepped his bounds.