Deputy cited for driving without insurance
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” Karen and Glen Niemeyer are angry that an Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy who rear-ended Karen’s Jeep in Carbondale had no insurance at the time of the accident and wasn’t cited with careless driving.
They believe Deputy David Lawson got special treatment by Carbondale police because he was a fellow law enforcement officer. But Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said that’s not true and a regular citizen wouldn’t have gotten a careless driving ticket in the same situation.
“You know darn well that when you’re speeding or you rear-end someone, you’re going to get a ticket,” Karen Niemeyer said, adding that police were protecting a fellow cop.
“They’re totally trying to sweep this under the rug,” Glen Niemeyer said.
On Friday, the Niemeyers said they are upset that Lawson wasn’t cited with careless driving or for driving without valid insurance.
Responding to inquiries later on Friday, Schilling said his department cited Lawson on Thursday for failing to have valid insurance, and the citation came after the Niemeyers gave police an insurance company letter Tuesday.
A copy of the letter states that Lawson’s policy lapsed for nonpayment Feb. 11, so no claims for the accident could be considered. Lawson apparently presented the expired insurance card at the scene and believed it was valid.
“[Lawson] was treated just like anyone else,” Schilling said. “If they show us a valid insurance card and the vehicle shows it’s insured in the state system, we figure they’re valid.”
Schilling said Officer Luke Blue, who responded to the accident, has investigated 26 accidents in the past year and only has issued two citations.
Carbondale police don’t normally cite people for careless driving, Schilling said, adding the department is “a little less enforcement oriented” and doesn’t automatically give people citations when they’re involved in accidents. He said Lawson could have been cited for careless driving but wasn’t, because that’s how everyone else would have been treated in that situation.
According to a police report, Lawson admitted running into the Jeep with his white Dodge truck on Feb. 21 at Village Road and Highway 133. Lawson told Blue that he didn’t notice the vehicles ahead of him were slowing down quickly, and he was unable to stop in time to avoid the collision, Blue’s report says. Blue recommended Niemeyer take an ambulance ride to the hospital, but she declined.
Niemeyer said in an interview she was stopped at a red light and her Jeep was totaled and had a bent frame. She said an emergency room doctor told her she had minor tissue damage, a concussion and some whiplash.
Niemeyer said the report never mentions the traffic light, the fact vehicles were stopped, or that there was any damage to Lawson’s truck. She said he couldn’t even open the hood on the truck because of damage. Pictures show the Jeep’s badly damaged rear end.
“The police report is a joke,” Niemeyer said.
The Niemeyers said they don’t yet know how much medical bills and damage will cost, and they haven’t heard from Lawson since the accident. Lawson, who works out of the Eagle County Sheriff’s El Jebel office, didn’t return a cell phone message Friday.