Washington State Trooper Bart Olson heard over his police radio that a black 2006 Yamaha R1 motorcycle had been seen speeding on Interstate 90. The biker was going anywhere from 76 miles per hour to 89 miles per hour in a 70 MPH zone and was being chased by another Trooper, so that’s when Trooper Olson decided the chase had to end.
The biker, Sluman did not know a another trooper was behind him with his lights on. If you ride a motorcycle, you know that is very much possible. Fact is, Sluman was changing lanes and using his turn signals.
As Sluman left the interstate, ignoring an order to end the pursuit, Trooper Olson parked his squad car in the middle of the highway.
“And, anyway, the motorcyclist was coming at me,” Trooper Olson testified. “And I could see the speed of the motorcycle, which was at a high rate, rapidly slowing… I’m going to place this person in custody or… they’re going to be going slow enough that if it comes down to it I’m going to basically horse collar this person off the motorcycle and end this pursuit.”
As Sluman neared, Trooper Olson opened his car door, knocking Sluman off the Yakima River Bridge and falling thirty feet below. Sluman, who is twenty-three years old, broke his right leg, pubic bone, tailbone and left elbow and will require multiple surgeries and skin grafts. He’s lucky to be alive. And for the record, one trooper testified that it looked like Sluman was about to stop.
Court of Appeals
Now, the Court of Appeals, in a seventy-one page ruling, rejected Trooper Olson’s argument for immunity from the excessive force lawsuit. Not only is that the correct ruling, but, Trooper Olson should also be prosecuted.
Judge Fearing wrote in his opinion:
“Olson asserts that he acted, as part of a team, to protect citizens at a well-traveled intersection from a motorcyclist traveling at speeds over 120 miles per hour. Olson did not act as a team. Instead, the undisputed facts show he performed as a rogue officer who violated numerous Washington State Patrol regulations.”
“Law enforcement sought to stop Sluman for speeding. Washington State Patrol officers did not even seek to capture Sluman because of a crime. Sluman was not armed. No officer knew that Sluman discerned he was being pursued. According to Trooper Paul Blume, Sluman never looked in his direction. Thus, no officer knew that Sluman sought to elude the police.”
To be clear, the Yamaha motorcycle was stolen, but the officers did not know that at the time, not that it would make a difference since the motorcycle rider was not suspected of being involved in any violent crimes.
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