Driver with health issues blasts police for treatment during 15 hours in custody

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By Mary Pat Flaherty
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jean Pierre says he knows what he saw and what annoyed him so much that he decided to pass the black Crown Victoria along Interstate 295 in the middle of the afternoon: It was a driver who had a cellphone pinned between his ear and shoulder, moving slower than the rest of traffic and straying between lanes.

But Pierre, 62, says it was what he didn't see that got him in so much trouble -- and ultimately resulted in him spending a miserable 15 hours in police custody.

The driver he passed was Assistant Chief Rodney Parks of the D.C. police, who then pursued and pulled over Pierre on June 4, before another veteran officer arrived and arrested Pierre for speeding more than 30 mph over the limit, according to court records.

Pierre wants to make it clear that it wasn't the speeding citation that angered him. He earned that. The Fort Washington residents drives a 2008 Dodge Challenger that he acknowledges is "fast."

"I sped. I was irritated. I take responsibility for that," Pierre said, though he contests that he was driving 110 mph in a 50 mph zone.

What Pierre objects to was his handling during 15 hours in custody without access to heart, blood pressure and other medications that he said he told police he takes daily. It was no food and very little water on an afternoon that hit 89 degrees that irritated him.

At one point, Pierre passed out in a police van as he was being moved from a local police station in Anacostia to a processing site downtown, he said, and was taken to Georgetown University Hospital. He has the emergency room bills to confirm the visit.

Pierre recalls being put into the van in Anacostia with another suspect and that his hands were cuffed in front of him with plastic ties as they were driven "some ways." But he woke up in the emergency room, in metal cuffs, hooked to a gurney, he said. After some tests, police took him to central booking, where he was put in a cell for disabled suspects -- Pierre relies on a cane to walk -- and was not released until about 5 a.m. June 5.

He had been pulled over at 2:30 p.m. June 4.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Friday that she would need to review the incident before she could comment. Parks, who relayed a statement through a police spokesman, said, "I am aware of Mr. Pierre's case but cannot comment further on it since this is a matter before the courts." Pierre is a three-tour Vietnam veteran, a retired Army sergeant with a Purple Heart who was a criminal investigator for the military, according to written statements from the Veterans Administration staff who treat him.

Pierre also pulled a D.C. police officer from a burning car wreck and received a 2003 citizens award from former police chief Charles H. Ramsey. A photo of that presentation hangs in Pierre's home office on a wall that also shows his daughter's graduation photo on the day she joined the Prince George's Sheriffs Department.

None of that mattered as Pierre headed to the military exchange at Bolling Air Base and found himself behind Parks's unmarked car. As told in the police statement about Pierre's arrest, Parks was driving north on Interstate 295 close to the police training academy when he was passed by the Dodge at "a high rate of speed."

Parks put on lights and a siren, followed the car for an eighth of a mile and noted the speed via speedometer, the police affidavit states. Parks said Pierre failed to immediately yield but came to a stop on a road just off the exit ramp.

Sgt. Gerald Anderson, a 23-year veteran who heard Parks's radio calls, came to the scene and made the arrest. In a police affidavit, Anderson said that when Pierre exited from his car, "he stated to Chief Parks 'you were on the cellphone and driving to (sic) slow and I just went around you.' " Anderson said Pierre also said to an officer who was driving the Dodge to the police station, "Watch it, don't let it get away from you like it did me, because it's fast.' " Pierre said he waited to get off the highway to stop "because I didn't want to be on the cane on the side of 295 and blocking traffic."

And, he acknowledged, "I did castigate him about the cellphone."

But, he said, he also asked the arresting officer how long it might take to process his arrest, "because I told them I had multiple health issues and take quite a bit of medication that I didn't have with me." He said he was told he would be done with booking "in a couple of hours for the paperwork."

He felt ill and "terribly hot in the van, and I woke up in the emergency room." It was not until his release downtown early Saturday, Pierre said, that he was able to reach his wife -- and only then because an officer let Pierre use his cellphone.

Pierre faces a September court hearing.

"It was the way it was handled after the arrest that gets to me," Pierre said. "I don't want that happening to someone else."

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