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Fleeing and Eluding? Or Making a Smart Choice?

Was it Really Fleeing and Eluding?

DaJuawn Wallace was making a quick trip to the store to pick up medicine for his girlfriend, when he noticed the headlights of a vehicle behind him speeding up. It was dark and almost 2 a.m. at the time. Wallace didn’t want to be involved in an accident, so he indicated his intent to get out of the way, and then merged into the right lane to allow the vehicle to pass.

But the vehicle in question was a police car. The officer driving had noticed that Wallace’s car matched the description of another car he was pursuing. He didn’t want to pass. He wanted to pull him over. Switching on his lights and siren, the officer expected Wallace to immediately pull over to the side of the road. But Wallace is a cautious man, and he had other ideas.

According to Wallace, he has friends who have been robbed by “fake police officers”. These are men dressed in police uniforms who use the the initial fear and confusion of their victims for material gain. He also knew that he had been taught that if he was going to pull over, he needed to be in a well lit area in order to be safe. The side of this road was not well lit.

Looking around, Wallace noticed a Sam’s Club store located down the road. He attempted to indicate with his hand to the officer that he intended to pull over there. He continued driving down the road at the same measured pace until he reached the store parking lot. There he pulled over his vehicle, parked, and rolled down his window.

He was immediately arrested. The charge? Fleeing and eluding police. But how, Wallace wanted to know. He never sped up, never tried to get away, clearly indicated his intention to the officer, and then did exactly what he said he would do. He never fled. He never tried to elude. He was simply trying to make a smart choice, given the situation.

But that is not how the arresting officer sees it. The Sam’s Club parking lot is about one and a half miles up the road from where the officer first activated his lights and siren. A long way, he believes, for a person to drive after they have been told to pull over by an officer of the law.

Wallace, a resident of Detroit currently pursuing a master’s degree at Saginaw Valley State University, says that he did not commit a crime. Saginaw Valley State University Police Officer Leon Wilson is certain that he did. And Saginaw County Chief Prosecutor Christopher Boyd agrees with him.

Wallace was initially charged with first degree fleeing and eluding. In Michigan this is a felony with up to four years in prison. But the prosecutor offered him a deal. If he pleads guilty to fourth degree fleeing and eluding, which is only a misdemeanor, his sentence will be delayed. In other words, he has only to complete probation, and he won’t have to go to jail at all.

But Wallace refused. That may be a good offer for some people, he said, but not for him. Pleading guilty to a crime, even if he doesn’t go to jail, will cause him to lose his job. It will also  compromise his ability to get financial aid. That would mean he wouldn’t be able to finish his master’s degree.

Besides, he explained, he didn’t do anything wrong, so he is not guilty of a crime. Why plead guilty, when you’re not guilty? His next court appearance is scheduled for today, July 9, before District Judge Terry Clark. He is still facing a felony charge.

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