If you stop to help someone in need and stay with them until police arrive, would you expect the cops to cut you a break if you make a u-turn to get back on your way? One man thinks so after his stop by the Shreveport Police went south in a hurry.
Billy Rachal says he stopped to help a hit and run victim on the night of February 5. The registered nurse helped the woman until police arrived. Then moments later he had an ugly incident with one of the same officers.
"They treated me like I had just murdered someone," Rachal says.
After Rachal left the scene, he made a u-turn at a light to head back in the direction he was going. Two signs indicate a u-turn is illegal there. But Rachal says he didn't see the signs in the dark of night. What he saw next were flashing lights in his rear view mirror.
"The only thing I could think of is the officers from the wreck decided they needed a statement from me," Rachal said.
So he got out of his truck and walked toward the officer's car, which Rachal says angered her and another officer who arrived for backup.
"They literally are ready to take me down, screaming and hollering at me, 'Sir get back in your car! Get back in your car!'" Rachal remembers.
"I stood there in fear is the reason I didn't turn around and return to my vehicle immediatly."
Rachal then described a series of orders barked by the officers:
"Lift your hands!"
"Get in your truck!"
Rachal says the second officer twice slammed Rachal's truck door shut. Then, Rachal says, "He directed me to go to the police officer's car and then they made me spread my hands on the front of her car.
And what really bothers Rachal is -- that second officer remembered him.
"I overheard him tell (the first officer) Corporal Taylor that this is the gentleman who'd just responded to the innocent pedestrian that was the victim of the hit and run and I saw him there."
Still, Cpl. Taylor wrote Rachal up for illegal u-turn.
"She says, 'Sir, I"m writing you a ticket. But I'm not writing you a ticket because you made an illegal U-Turn. I'm writing you the ticket because you disobeyed our commands to get back in your vehicle, and you sat out here and argued with an officer which is disrespectful,'" Rachal remembers. He admits cursing the second officer after the officer slammed his truck door.
Shreveport Police say whether those officers acted appropriately will be determined later in an internal review process. Rachal filed a complaint with internal affairs the next morning.
But the story begs the question: Does an officer has discretion on whether to give a Good Samaritan a break on a ticket?
"Absolutely," says SPD spokesman, Cpl. Bill Goodin. "It's based on context. And the officers that are out there on the streets every day use those skills that they developed after years of patrolling."
Cpl. Goodin says the officer decided a ticket for the u-turn was the best result based on the whole situation. It's a situation Rachal says he will now avoid.
"It will probably be a long time or if I ever stop to help anybody else in the city of Shreveport because I'm afraid of what may happen," he says.
Cpl. Goodin says if you're pulled over by police, your best course of action is to wait on directions from the officers. Some will want you to stay in your car; others prefer that you step out.