Quick-thinking police officers in St. Petersburg, Florida, have been praised for preventing a “mass casualty” event at an elementary school's turkey trot. Around 3,000 people took part in the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot 5K organized by the North Shore Elementary PTA (Parent Teacher Association) on Thanksgiving morning, when a woman driving a Range Rover sped toward the race route at a speed of 60 miles an hour.
The St. Petersburg Police Department stated that 38-year-old Ashlee Lauren Morgan had been driving her Range Rover Velar at 60 miles per hour Thursday as she was heading towards 21st Avenue NE, near the route of the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot, according to FOX 13.
Police stated that the woman was detained prior to driving her car along the 5K route, which had been closed to motorists. In the arrest warrant, Morgan was accused of driving in a “reckless manner” as she neared the course, where 3,000 people were taking part in the race.
Morgan did not listen to warnings from an official of the city traffic department who alerted her to the possibility of her entering the race route and continued at a high rate of speed in the direction of the race and runners. The driver was pulled over at an intersection by uniformed police officers, with their cruiser’s emergency lights on.
As per court records: 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.”
After being taken into custody in a police vehicle, Morgan “repeatedly banged her head” against the glass and placed her foot “out of the rear driver side door” and refused to obey the police's orders to comply. The cops eventually resorted to pepper spray to obtain compliance from the suspect.
The North Shore Elementary PTA issued a statement praising the police for helping to prevent a tragedy from occurring: “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. 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.”
It is not clear whether Morgan was specifically targeting the Thanksgiving holiday. However, there has been an increase in the number of incidents at events related to holidays. In the past, an Independence Day parade in Highland, Illinois, was subjected to a mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of seven. Last year's Waukesha Christmas Parade in Wisconsin was victimized by a driver who drove into parade-goers, killing six people and injuring many others.
For threatening to endanger the lives of the athletes, Ashlee Lauren Morgan is being charged with the following offenses: leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, two counts of fleeing and eluding police, reckless driving, and resisting an officer without violence.