St. Lucie County deputy's maneuver flips car he was following; driver questions tactic, arrest

Driver claims she could have been killed

FORT PIERCE, Fla.-- Sandra Silasavage has been living with scoliosis for years.

"It's painful, but you know, you try to get along with it," she said, with her cane in her hand.

She said she tries to live as normal a life as possible, and she is legal to drive. She said she had her license renewed this July.

Silasavage claims when she saw a St. Lucie County deputy following behind her on her way home Sunday night, she tried to drive as straight as possible.

"Because I knew he was there, (I was) trying my darndest to keep it just right," she said. "I knew he was there. I never touched the grass, never crossed the line."

According to the incident report, the St. Lucie County deputy saw Silasavage driving "slightly slumped" "with her head tilted." The deputy wrote in the report that he began following her and observed her swerve several times, so he activated his siren and lights, but he claims she did not stop.

"He did not give me a chance to stop," said Silasavage. "He didn't give me the opportunity. He was the judge, jury and executioner all in one."

Silasavage said she recalls when her car reportedly spun out of control.

"I thought I was dead. I really did, and I thought, I'm coming to see you, Frank," she explained, referring to her late husband, whose Miami police officer photo and badge she keeps hung on her home wall. "Then I'm hanging kind of upside down, because it landed on the driver's side door, and I'm hung up in the seatbelt."

The deputy wrote in his report that he was "afraid for public safety," because a construction zone was four miles down the road. He noted that she maintained a consistent speed of 57 mph.

But Silasavage asks, what about her safety? And why was she arrested, charged with fleeing?

"He could have killed me, and he could have killed anybody that perchance my vehicle could have hit," she said. "What's to say it wouldn't have gone into the oncoming lane?"

Martin County attorney Josh Deckard served 25 years as a police officer, training other officers how to properly pursue suspects. He said using the PIT maneuver in this instance was unwarranted.

"There were other measures that this officer could have taken," he said. "This lady was driving two miles over the speed limit, apparently at a constant speed. I don't believe this would give any indication that she was attempting to flee the police officer."

"It's simply a technique, that, when it is used, in those agencies where the use of the P.I.T. maneuvers are authorized, it is used in extreme cases," he continued. "The P.I.T. maneuver should only be used in cases where someone's safety is paramount, when you have someone driving recklessly on the highway, willfully causing danger to other motorists. It would seem in this particular case, the maneuver was unwarranted, and it was a dangerous move for an officer to use in this situation."

According to the Sheriff's Office Motor Vehicle Pursuit Policy, the Precision Immobilization Technique, or P.I.T. Maneuver, will be accordance with prescribed training of the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office:

a. Only deputies who have successfully completed the PIT maneuver training conducted by the Sheriff's Office Training Unit may utilize this technique.

b. If in the judgment of the deputy or deputies in pursuit, the fleeing vehicle must be stopped immediately to safeguard life and preserve the public safety, the PIT maneuver may be used.

c. When using the PIT, deputies must take into account the safety of bystanders, the risk of physical injury to the occupants of the fleeing vehicle and to the deputy.

d. The use of the PIT within the prescribed training guidelines is not likely to cause serious bodily injury or death and will be considered non-deadly use of force."

The deputy who performed the PIT maneuver, Deputy Sean Freeman, is a 10-year veteran of the force who, according to his personnel file, has collected numerous Safe Driving Awards, including from 2012. He has never been the subject of an internal affairs investigation within the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office.

Silasavage said his clean record doesn't erase what she calls a serious error in judgment.

"He caused an accident to happen," she said. "There would have been no accident, as far as I know. I would like for them to drop these charges, because they're not legitimate. I would never try to run from the police. I was married to one, I know you can't get away. Do I look that stupid?"

Silasavage was charged with possession of a controlled substance for having four Oxycodone pills without a prescription.  She claims she was not under the influence. NewsChannel 5 has requested to see the toxicology report, as well as the dispatch and 9-1-1 recordings.

This story will be updated when more information is available.

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