Lawyers say a trooper charged at a Philadelphia LGBTQ+ leader as she recorded the traffic stop

Mar 7, 2024, 10:09 AM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia city official arrested during a traffic stop said she started recording because she feared for her husband’s life as a trooper handcuffed him on a rainy elevated highway.

The trooper then charged at her “like a linebacker,” knocking the cellphone away and ending the recording, her lawyers said Thursday.

“This state trooper held my husband’s life in his hands,” Celena Morrison, who leads the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said at a news conference.

“Fearing the worst was about the happen, I yelled out to the trooper, ‘I work for the mayor,’ multiple times, hoping that would make him realize he was dealing with people he did not need to be afraid of,” said Morrison, 51, a top aide to Mayor Cherelle Parker.

She and her husband, Darius McLean, who runs an LGBTQ+ community center in the city, plan to file suit over the traffic stop, which occurred as they drove behind each other to drop off a car for repairs. Their lawyers questioned the trooper’s apparent “warrior” policing tactics.

“What is it about the training that he’s receiving that makes him think that that is an OK way to treat civilians that he is sworn to protect and serve?” lawyer Riley Ross asked.

He also questioned the reason for the stop, saying the trooper would not have had time to run the registration before he wedged between them and pulled Morrison over. The trooper, on the video, said he stopped her for tailgating and failing to have her lights on.

Morrison believes she was targeted for being Black. The trooper, who has not been identified by state police, has been put on limited duty amid the investigation.

The couple was detained for about 12 hours on obstruction and resisting arrest charges following the 9 a.m. stop Saturday, but District Attorney Larry Krasner has not yet determined whether he will file the charges.

“It’s disheartening that as Black individuals, we are all too familiar with the use of the phrase, ‘Stop resisting!’ as a green light for excessive force by law enforcement,” Morrison said.

McLean, following behind his wife, said he stopped to ensure her safety before the trooper turned first to speak with him and quickly drew his gun and ordered him to the ground. The trooper can be heard asking who he was and why he stopped.

McLean said he can’t shake the image of the trooper “charging at my wife, tackling her as I lay handcuffed in the street.” He tried to ask passing traffic to call 911, the lawyers said.

Parker, the mayor, has called the cellphone video that Morrison shot “very concerning.”

“I now know that there was nothing I could have done or said that was going to stop this trooper from violating our rights,” Morrison said Thursday.

Morrison, who is transgender, has held the city post since 2020. McLean, 35, is the chief operating officer of the William Way LGBT Community Center.

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Lawyers say a trooper charged at a Philadelphia LGBTQ+ leader as she recorded the traffic stop