With tensions apparently high following the fatal shooting of a state trooper, Michigan State Police Trooper Timothy Wagner claims he was being extra cautious when he drew his firearm and pointed it at an 18-year-old woman during a traffic stop last month.
The incident, caught on Wagner’s dash cam, sparked allegations of excessive force and a formal investigation. Though no criminal charges were ever filed, even St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough said in a statement that what he heard come out of the trooper’s mouth made him “sick to my stomach.”
The incident began after Wagner says he clocked the woman’s red Pontiac going 77 mph in a 55 mph zone. The dash cam video shows the trooper activating his lights and siren before pulling a quick U-turn to pull over the driver. About 45 seconds after the U-turn, the woman had pulled over to the side of the road.
Wagner is seen getting out of his car with his handgun already drawn and pointed at the car. He slowly approaches the vehicle and orders the woman to get out. The trooper then handcuffs the woman and takes her back to his cruiser.
"I chased you for two miles doing almost 80 mph after I went right by you and turned around, that’s the problem,” the trooper can be heard telling the woman. “You really have to pay attention to what’s going on.”
The woman apologizes and tells the trooper she didn’t see him immediately. She does not deny that she was driving too fast.
Here’s the part that the county prosecutor said made him “sick” to his stomach, according to MLive.com.
Towards the end of the audio, the trooper appears to ask the woman, “How’d you like having a gun pointed….” The end of his statement is inaudible.
The context of comment, possibly a joke, isn’t entirely clear from the incomplete audio. Watch the video here:
The woman apparently claimed there was a report of a burglary at her residence and she was in a hurry to get home. Wagner confirmed the burglary report and eventually let the woman go with a ticket, though he said he “probably should” take her to jail.
After reviewing the case, McDonough decided there was not enough evidence to warrant criminal charges. However, he made his disapproval of the officer’s actions known.
"When he asked if she enjoyed having a gun pointed at her I became sick to my stomach," McDonough wrote in a statement. "... I do not want Trooper Wagner to have the opportunity to do anything like this again and certainly not in St. Joseph County."
The Michigan State Police’s Coldwater Post, where the trooper is stationed, also said Wagner’s “inappropriate behavior” is “not condoned or tolerated.”
In a statement provided to Detective 1st Lt. Chuck Christensen, Wagner explained why he reacted the way he did:
"Based on my 19+ years working road patrol chasing a vehicle for a mile with lights and siren activated to conduct a traffic stop is extraordinarily unusual," Wagner said. "I have previously been involved in pursuits of this distance which resulted in the driver's subsequent attempt to flee on foot. I therefore considered this incident an attempt to Flee & Elude, which is a felony, and positioned myself to intercept the driver should they flee on foot."
Read the full report here.