ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A St. Petersburg woman was arrested on Thanksgiving Day after police say she endangered the lives of thousands of 5K runners.
The St. Petersburg Police Department said at around 8 a.m., officers spotted a white Range Rover speeding in a residential neighborhood at around 60 to 70 mph.
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Police said the driver, 38-year-old Ashlee Lauren Morgan, was headed toward a secured racecourse for the Thanksgiving Day 5K Turkey Trot, which had 3,000 people in attendance. According to authorities, the 5K was already starting with many people on the racecourse already.
“Morgan was observed driving recklessly south on Coffee Pot Blvd NE, approaching the Snell Isle Bridge,” the department said. “Three officers made contact with her, requested her credentials, she refused, and fled the scene of the stop at a high rate of speed onto the racecourse.”
Another officer tried to pull her over at the intersection of Snell and Brightwater Boulevard, but she ignored his commands to stop and drove past two marked patrol cars that had their emergency lights on and several safety cones at the intersection, police said.
Officers eventually had to force her to stop at Brightwater Boulevard and Lamara Way Northeast. Morgan became combative during her arrest, according to police.
“While under arrest, the defendant banged her head against the rear windows of the police cruiser, attempted to exit as her handcuffs were being adjusted, was combative, and OC Spray was utilized on two separate occasions in order to gain her compliance,” a police statement said.
An arrest affidavit said that if the officers did not stop Morgan, she would have “barreled through the intersection causing mass [casualties] to race participants.”
The department said officers later learned Morgan fled a crash on 26 Avenue Northeast and 1st Street Northeast where she hit a stop sign, leaving damage to her rear bumper.
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“Our officers work these special events so that they can be there to avert potential problems,” spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said. “In this case, several officers had to intervene to keep this driver from possibly harming the runners.”
According to the affidavits, there was no indication of alcohol or drug influence or mental health issues.
In a statement sent to News Channel 8, the Department said “Our officers immediately identified the reckless driver as being a threat to the runners. She eluded several officers, drove past barricades and lighted police cars onto the street being used for the race. Thanks to the quick response of the officers on scene, they were able to stop her, and avert what could have ended up being tragic results.”
Morgan was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on two counts of felony fleeing and eluding, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, reckless driving, and resisting an officer without violence.