DaJuawn Wallace, a student at Saginaw Valley State University, was making a late-night run to the pharmacy to buy medicine for his girlfriend, when he saw flashing police lights in his rearview mirror. Since he was on a dark road in Kochville Township, Mich., he opted to drive to a well-lit area.
Wallace drove slowly for more than a mile, followed by police, until he was able to stop in a Sam’s Club parking lot. When he pulled over, Saginaw Valley State University Police Officer Leon Wilson arrested him on a charge of felony fleeing and eluding.
“The driver made no attempt to pull over and stop. I observed the driver stick his hands out of the window a couple of times. I did not see the driver throw anything from the vehicle, though it was dark and the road was poorly lit,” said Wilson in his police report.
Wilson pulled Wallace over because he claimed his car matched the description of a vehicle he had seen driving on the sidewalk.
Saginaw County Chief Prosecutor Christopher Boyd said Wallace should have stopped as soon as he saw the police lights.
“You don’t get a driver’s license and get to pick what rules you are going to follow and what rules you are not going to follow,” Boyd told Mlive.com.
However, Wallace said he was just following precautions he had learned growing up in Detroit, Mich., where he had heard stories of criminals pretending to be cops so they could rob people.
“I live in Detroit, and I know some people who were robbed by fake police officers,” Wallace told MLive. “I was taught to find a well-lit area to pull over in.”
The Huffington Post said there have been several incidents of people masquerading as police officers in Michigan.
“Wallace’s concerns about police impersonators in Michigan aren’t unfounded. In 2013, authorities issued a warning to residents in the Detroit area after a string of incidents in which people were robbed and assaulted by men claiming to be police officers. Two men were arrested after allegedly identifying themselves as Fugitive Recovery Agents to rob two individuals,” said The Huffington Post.
Wallace did the right according to Marty Kron, a New York traffic attorney and former traffic judge.
“‘You should still pull over when you can do so safely,” Martin Kron told Business Insider. “And if you can’t, you should notify the officer with a hand signal and drive the speed limit.”
Wallace did all of these things, but was still hit with felony charges. Prosecutors must have realized how flimsy the case was because they quickly offered to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor. But Wallace refused their offer and was adamant about being right.
“If I had to take a plea for a felony, I would be forced to resign my job, and I wouldn’t be able to get financial aid, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything with my degree. Even still with the misdemeanor,” said Wallace, who is working on a master’s degree at Saginaw Valley State University.
According to Kron, the felony charges may have more to do with an annoyed officer taking his frustrations out on Wallace, who was not breaking the law.
“‘Don’t upset the officer. Sometimes you might end up with three tickets instead of one,’ he added, implying officers might look for extra infractions if you made them angry,” said Business Insider.