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Simple seat-belt distraction escalates

Officer threatens to shoot a man showing erratic behavior as he advanced toward the officer

Sometimes a patrol officer watching traffic to be certain everyone is using safety belts ends up with something totally different.

Because of the actions of one local driver the morning Sept. 5, a Sandy police officer was forced to draw his gun, aim it at the man and threaten to shoot him.

It all came down potentially to the final seconds of the man's life, and the choice he needed to make: Would he comply with the officer's demands to stop and surrender, or would he continue to threateningly advance toward the officer?

The incident started innocently, with the officer ready to issue a warning about the man not using his seat belt - or at the most, a citation for not wearing the belt.

A large SUV driven by a man later identified as Virgil L. Joyner, 54, 21021 McCabe Road, stopped when the officer turned on his emergency lights and gave a short burst of his siren.

As the officer approached the vehicle, stopped on Pioneer Boulevard near Shelley Avenue, he noticed Joyner looking at him in the side rear-view mirror.

The officer waved at the man, saying 'Hi, sir.'

One more step closer to the vehicle, and Joyner stuck his head outside the window, looked back at the officer and yelled in a drawn-out voice, 'Bye.'

Accelerating quickly, the SUV's tires spun on the pavement and the vehicle sped away.

Giving chase, the officer noticed the vehicle turn sharply to the right at a high rate of speed, with its tires nearly leaving the ground as it entered the parking lot near City Hall.

Stopping behind the SUV, the officer prepared to get out of his vehicle and interview the suspect.

But before he could do that, Joyner got out of the SUV and approached the police vehicle.

The officer's report states Joyner was waving his hands violently and yelling at the officer, 'Why did you stop me? Why did you pull me over back there?'

By the time the officer was out of his seat, Joyner was less than 20 feet away and still advancing.

'Stop; don't come any closer to me. Put your hands in the air,' the officer yelled.

But Joyner didn't comply.

Acting quickly, the officer pulled his firearm, pointed it at Joyner and said, 'I said stop, face away from me and get down on your knees, right now.'

Joyner didn't comply.

The officer reported he was deeply concerned about Joyner's erratic behavior and didn't know if he had a concealed weapon.

With Joyner still advancing - now about three steps away - the officer used one last-ditch effort to get Joyner to stop threatening.

'I said stop. Do it, or I will shoot you,' he yelled.

Joyner stopped, and the officer called for a backup officer.

'Again the officer yelled at Joyner, 'Face away from me, and get down on your knees.'

A backup officer soon arrived and applied handcuffs to Joyner, who was searched. No weapon or contraband was found.

As soon as he was placed under arrest, the officer stated in his report, Joyner was no longer threatening. His demeanor had changed completely.

'I'm sorry for running away from you,' he said.

Joyner told the officer he didn't have a driver's license, and thought it was suspended.

'I'm sorry for doing that; it was stupid,' he added to his litany of apologies.

The officer explained the reason he had been stopped (seat belt infraction), but added the seriousness of the offense escalated quickly.

'You would have just got a traffic ticket, and could have left,' the officer said.

'I know. I know,' Joyner replied. 'I was worried about my license. I shouldn't have ran.'

Charged with the serious crime of attempt to elude an officer, Joyner was lodged in the Clackamas County Jail on $15,000 bail. He will have to answer that charge in front of a Circuit Court judge, probably after he faces the Sandy Municipal Court judge to answer why he was driving while suspended and without wearing a safety belt. Base fines on those two local violations is set at $614, but costs at the Circuit Court level are still to be determined after the district attorney reviews the case and a judge hears Joyner's plea.