Authorities in Florida said that they stopped a woman from causing a “mass casualty” event on Thanksgiving when they say she tried to drive her SUV through a Turkey Trot course that had thousands of people on it.
The St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) said that it happened early Thursday morning when 38-year-old Ashlee Lauren Morgan drove her Range Rover at a high rate of speed and approached officers who were parked near a bridge with their emergency lights on, Fox 13 reported.
“Morgan was observed driving recklessly south on Coffee Pot Boulevard Northeast, 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.”
The officers tried to stop Morgan before she drove past them and onto to the road where approximately 3,000 people were participating in the 5K race.
Police say that Morgan “refused, ignored commands of ‘stop!’ and fled the scene of the stop at an extremely high rate of speed, onto the actual racecourse, further putting the lives of runners/race participants at risk.”
Police further said that Morgan had “acknowledged” a law enforcement officer but gave a dismissive hand gesture when she decided to drive off.
When she was confronted by an official saying that she was driving on an enclosed road, she became enraged, police said. Officers were later able to stop her.
Police added, “If it were not for the officers at the intersecting gaining the defendant’s attention, and forcing her to stop, she would have ignored all traffic safety obstacles strategically placed at the intersection, and barreled through the intersection causing mass casualty to race participants.”
The North Shore Elementary PTA, which hosted the 5K run, released a statement expressing “gratitude” for the actions of the police department.
“On behalf of the North Shore Elementary PTA, we would like to express our gratitude to the St. Petersburg Police Department for their quick actions to protect participants in yesterday’s Coffee Pot Turkey Trot 5K from a reckless driver,” the statement said. “Our race planning committee works closely with the St. Petersburg Police Department on route management, course safety, and communication of street closings. This incident underscores the importance of those efforts. Yesterday’s Coffee Pot Turkey Trot 5K was carried out safely and successfully and we thank the police for their work and our participants for entrusting us with their safety.”
Morgan was charged with reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, and resisting an officer without violence.