PINEVILLE, N.C. — The Pineville Police Department announced it has finished its internal investigation of the July 2022 severe injury of a woman that was in its custody. Now, the department is reforming several of its policies.
In the early hours of July 17, 28-year-old Morgan Johnson managed to escape from a moving police car while traveling on I-485.
Pineville Police reported that Johnson was able to uncuff one of her hands and open the passenger-side rear window. When the officer realized what was happening, she was already hanging halfway out of the window.
The police report said Johnson was likely intoxicated when she was arrested earlier that night for assault at the Willow Ridge Apartments.
Johnson, according to police, suffered severe head trauma from the jump.
Chief Mike Hudgins called it a tragedy when updating the community on the investigation Tuesday night.
“We pray and hope Ms. Johnson has a full recovery,” Hudgins said.
The internal investigation found that the window lock in the front driver's side door was not engaged. Now, the department has revised its prisoner transport policy and is updating its cars.
Hudgins said that includes, "[disabling] all rear window and door lock controls in patrol vehicles..." Plus, the department has hired a vendor to install bars on all rear windows of its cars.
The recording policy is changing too, according to Hudgins, after the investigation found the car’s internal rear camera wasn’t working during the incident.
"You cannot see anything in the back of the car when [Johnson] exits out,” Hudgins claimed.
The lack of available footage is troubling to police reform advocate Dawn Blagrove.
“There is absolutely no reason for law enforcement not to have video of what happened to this woman,” Blagrove told WCNC Charlotte.
Blagrove is the executive director of Emancipate NC and is pushing for independent oversight of law enforcement. She argued that Johnson’s escape was avoidable.
“It is imperative that the people demand very strong retribution, and reprimand for officers who have not taken the necessary steps to ensure that someone who is in their custody, in their care, is properly cared for,” Blagrove added.
The chief said that the officer transporting Johnson during the escape was not put on leave.
A spokesperson for the department said there are no other investigations looking into the incident. Police couldn’t detail Johnson’s current condition but said she is out of state with family.
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