Quick-thinking cops in St. Petersburg, Florida, are being praised for preventing a potential “mass casualty” event at an elementary school turkey trot. Approximately 3,000 people were participating in the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot 5K, sponsored by the North Shore Elementary PTA, on Thanksgiving morning when a woman in a Range Rover sped toward the race route at 60 miles per hour.
The St. Petersburg Police Department said 38-year-old Ashlee Lauren Morgan was driving her 2019 Range Rover Velar while going 60 miles per hour on Thursday as she was approaching 21st Avenue NE, near the route for the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot, according to FOX 13.
Police say the woman was stopped before driving her vehicle through the route of the 5K, which was closed to traffic.
According to an arrest report, Morgan was allegedly driving in a “reckless manner” as she approached the route where around 3,000 people were participating in the 5K.
Morgan ignored warnings from a city traffic official who alerted her to the fact that she was approaching the race route, and she proceeded at high speed toward the course and its runners. She was eventually stopped at an intersection by uniformed policemen and their police cruiser with its emergency lights on.
According to court documents:
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 detained in a police car, Morgan “repeatedly banged her head” against the window, placed her feet “out of the rear driver side door” and refused orders from the cops to comply. They eventually resorted to pepper spray to achieve compliance from the suspect.
North Shore Elementary PTA issued statement thanking police for preventing a tragedy:
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 remains to be seen if Morgan was specifically targeting the Thanksgiving-themed race, but there has been alarming increase in threats to holiday-related events. Earlier this year, the Independence Day Parade in Highland, Illinois, was the target of a mass shooter, resulting in seven deaths. Last year’s Waukesha Christmas Parade was targeted by a driver who drove through parade participants, killing six and injuring scores of parade goers.
For threatening the lives of the race participants, Ashlee Lauren Morgan is facing the following charges: leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, two counts of fleeing and eluding police, reckless driving and resisting an officer without violence.
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