Curiosity surrounds ‘routine’ traffic stop
Sunday, July 06, 2014 12:42 AM
By now, a good many readers have not only read the accounts of Sam Montgomery’s arrest on a speeding charge in Laurens County, but also viewed the arresting state trooper’s roughly 30-minute long in-dash video of Montgomery’s arrest and trip to jail.
Montgomery, a former Greenwood High School and LSU football standout who is now in the NFL as a Cincinnati Bengals player, was stopped in the early morning hours last week along Highway 72, en route to Greenwood. State trooper Lance Cpl. R.S. Salter was headed the opposite direction when Montgomery’s car sped by on the eastbound side. He was traveling at 89 mph in a 55 mph zone. But rather than issuing Montgomery a ticket for speeding and urging him to slow down on his way home to visit his mother, Salter placed Montgomery under arrest. Immediately. And within hours of Montgomery’s arrest, the state Highway Patrol suspended Salter from his job, without pay, pending the outcome of an investigation. All the department would say is Salter’s behavior was unprofessional.
We cannot put ourselves in the minds of either Salter or Montgomery. We can only, like you, view the video and attempt to draw conclusions. And we can at least attempt to put ourselves in the shoes of both.
Every day they head out the door and take the state’s roads and highways, state troopers put their lives on the line. That’s the nature of the law enforcement business. And no matter how seasoned a trooper might be, that is at the forefront of any officer’s mind. He must maintain heightened awareness and use all due caution. Especially late at night on a lonely stretch of road. It is reasonable, then, when Montgomery pulled over Salter did not immediately exit his patrol car and walk up to the car. After all, he had just clocked a car traveling at a dangerously high rate of speed late at night and with out-of-state plates. Using his grill speaker that allows him to communicate without leaving his car, Salter commanded the driver to turn off his engine and put his hands out where they could be seen. He then exited his car and told Montgomery to get out of the car, asking him if he’s in the military (a reference to the out-of-state plates). Montgomery answered, saying he is NFL. And with that, Salter told Montgomery he is under arrest.
The exchange that followed was rather intense. Again, one can imagine Salter was using all the caution he was trained to use. Montgomery, at 6-feet, 3-inches and 262 pounds, would be a formidable foe on or off the football field. But at no time was Montgomery threatening. He followed orders, although he was as confused as anyone else would be when Salter kept barking commands at him after telling him he was under arrest. Here again, we can only try to put ourselves in the shoes of Montgomery. He got caught speeding, nothing more, but finds himself being arrested rather than ticketed. A trooper is yelling at him, telling him to spread his legs, point his feet outward, put his hands behind his back with palms up. Clearly, in the video, it is easy to see that Montgomery is rattled by the situation but trying to cooperate. He is doing his best to be cooperative, but we’d bet any one of us would be equally confused and react in much the same way.
It is obvious Salter fully intended to arrest whoever was behind the wheel of that car. Why? According to the trooper, because he could. Speeding more than 25 mph above the speed limit is a violation that can lead to immediate arrest, at the officer’s discretion, according to the highway patrol. But again, why this driver this time?
We, like many readers, anxiously await the coming chapters of this story. While it’s true he was speeding to the point of being reckless, Montgomery’s demeanor and behavior was stellar following his being stopped. He was polite, non-combative, non-threatening. Sure, he too wondered why he wasn’t being issued a speeding ticket and sent on his way, but he remained rather calm and wholly polite.
Interesting, the video shows too the trooper softened up a bit. He did not initially know who he had stopped, only he had a driver barreling down the highway he was patrolling. He had a duty to do. We have to wonder and can only speculate that Salter’s initial treatment of Montgomery, the barking of orders and threat to use a Taser on him, is what led to his suspension. We cannot help, though, wondering if the high-profile nature of this particular traffic stop did not come into play too.
Troopers -- anyone in the law enforcement arena -- have an incredibly tough and dangerous job to do. We would not want to trade jobs with Salter, nor would we want to have been in Montgomery’s shoes when when being yelled at and threatened with a Taser. And yes, we know the entire tale would be non-existent had Montgomery not been traveling at such a high speed. But that is not the case, and so we and many others remain even more curious about what otherwise would have been a relatively unknown incident.