Ashland, Oregon - An Ashland woman, Keely Meagan, was on trial Wednesday, for refusing to leave a traffic stop after being ordered to by an Oregon State Trooper.
According to The Mail-Tribune, two Oregon State Troopers were conducting a traffic stop on the side of Interstate 5 on September 8, 2016. Meagan said she stopped because "nationwide news about police officers injuring and killing black people had made her fear for the black driver's safety."
One of the Troopers had stopped the vehicle for a suspected Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants on I-5 near Exit 27 on the south side of Medford. A second Trooper, Mark Williams, responded to assist. The driver of the vehicle was black. The driver admitted to the Troopers that he had consumed marijuana within the previous hour. He consented to field sobriety tests, which he passed. The driver was not charged with DUI but his vehicle had to be towed because he was uninsured.
Keely Meagan, age 55, was driving on I-5 and did not see the field sobriety tests. She said that she saw the driver with his hands behind his head and believed that he was in a "vulnerable" position. She said during the trial that she parked on the I-5 shoulder behind the Troopers and turned on her hazard lights.
Meagan said that her "intention simply was to observe" and that she "was sending a nonverbal message to the officers and the young man that someone cared."
She said that she stopped "because nationwide news about police officers injuring and killing black people had made her fear for the black driver's safety" and that "It felt at the time like the life of every black person pulled over by a police officer was at risk."
She said that Trooper Williams demanded that she leave several times and that she wondered "what he was trying to hide."
At the trial, Trooper Williams testified that he told Keely Meagan that she was creating a safety hazard by parking her vehicle on the side of I-5. He also said that she was just a few feet from an off-ramp and that there was heavy rush-hour traffic on the highway.
Trooper Williams also testified that he told Meagan that he "was not opposed to her observing our traffic stop, but she needs to find a safer place to pull over." He said that Meagan offered to drive on a grassy slope but that he was concerned that her vehicle would get stuck, another safety issue. He also said that her vehicle, a van, might have blocked other drivers from seeing their vehicles' flashing lights.
Trooper Williams said that he was not able to focus his attention on the driver and his passenger, that he felt he was "having to divide my attention between the defendant and the two subjects, who were becoming increasingly agitated. It was a safety concern, because I had to go talk to her." While Trooper Williams was talking with Meagan, the other Trooper was having to conduct the traffic stop by himself.
While Trooper Williams was talking to Keely Meagan on the side of the Interstate, a tractor-trailer locked his tires up and almost wrecked. He pointed this out to Meagan. She again said that it was her duty to stop and make sure black drivers were safe every time she saw one, and Trooper Williams said that it was his duty to keep each driver and Trooper safe. Meagan testified that she stopped because she didn't want to learn later that the man had been killed.
Keely Meagan was charged by Trooper Williams with misdemeanor Interfering with a Peace Officer by Refusing to Obey a Lawful Order and Alleged Illegal Stopping, Standing or Parking. In what we can only assume was awful legal advice on her lawyer's part, she waived her rights to a jury trial and consented to have a Judge rule on her case. Jackson County Circuit Judge David Hoppe ruled, according to law, which Meagan clearly violated.
After Judge Hoppe viewed dashcam video of the hazard that Meagan created, she was found guilty for interfering, but was not given any punishment as a sentence. The Judge Hoppe appeared to think that losing her job as a driver's education instructor was enough.
The public are not allowed within close proximity of a traffic stop because it creates a dangerous situation for the officers by having them split their attention. Anybody who wants to observe should do so from a good distance away. Also, it's never safe to stop behind a patrol car on the side of an Interstate.
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