Traffic Stop Tasing
Boynton Beach officer Rich McNevin is shown in a department video using a Taser on driver Victoria Goodwin, who was charged with driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence. She had berated officers and refused to get out of her vehicle. Police officials back McNevin’s choice. (video)

Dani Davies, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, reports:

BOYNTON BEACH — Victoria Goodwin’s spirits were high as she sped through Boynton Beach in her SUV that Friday morning.

She had just dropped her daughter off at day care and was heading to her mother’s house to get her hair and nails done. On Monday, she would fly to Jamaica to be a contestant in a modeling competition.

He pulled her over.

Five minutes later, the young mother was squirming on the ground, her body electrified twice by 50,000 volts from McNevin’s Taser.

Though Goodwin, 22, wants to sue the department, police officials say the officer’s choice to use the stun gun was a good one that had a good outcome: No one got seriously hurt.

The incident was recorded by a camera mounted on the Mustang’s dashboard.

It shows, at 7:50 a.m. on Aug. 6, Goodwin’s silver Isuzu Rodeo pass by, McNevin following and eventually pulling her over.

As McNevin approaches the Rodeo, Goodwin opens her door and launches into a stream of criticism and questions. She tells him he pulled her over for no reason, says Boynton Beach officers are “the worst” and, according to the officer’s report, calls him racist. He tells her that in addition to speeding, she has a broken windshield, a broken tail light and isn’t wearing a seat belt.

At 7:54 a.m., a dispatcher adds one more offense to the list: Goodwin’s license is suspended. McNevin tells Goodwin she is under arrest. He directs her to put out her cigarette, get off her cellphone and step out of the car. She says, “No, I’m calling somebody.” He repeats his order and tries to grab her wrist, but she pulls away and says, “Stop. Don’t touch me.”

McNevin draws his Taser and points it into the car. A second officer opens Goodwin’s passenger door and tries to grab her cellphone.

It’s impossible to see on the video what is happening inside the car. In his report, McNevin wrote that “it appeared that Goodwin attempted to slap Officer Reynolds.” She says she never did that.

At 7:55 a.m., McNevin, who has never shot his Taser before, fires the two probes from his stun gun into Goodwin’s left arm.

She shrieks in pain and slides out of the car. Her body vibrates violently on the ground as she continues to wail.

McNevin shouts at her to turn over on her stomach and put her hands behind her back. Do it now, he says repeatedly. Do it now, or you’re going to get Tased again, he yells.

The video doesn’t show Goodwin on the ground. She cries out, “I can’t.”

Then, less than a minute after the first shock, another pop is audible, followed by the clicking sound of the Taser cycling another 50,000 volts into her body for five seconds. She screams anew and yanks one probe from her arm.

She sobs for several minutes, quietly, repeatedly whimpering, “Oh, my God.”

The two officers put her in handcuffs, remove the remaining probe and walk her to a patrol car.

“It’s over and done with,” McNevin says. “We’ve been Tased before. We know it’s not that bad.”

Goodwin responds: “I don’t care what you say. I’ve never been Tased before.”

Sgt. Sedrick Aiken, a department trainer who watched the video, said McNevin’s actions were appropriate, even ideal.

An officer facing a noncompliant person in a car has to consider several potential problems. If he physically forced Goodwin out of the vehicle and onto the ground, he might have injured her. She might have had a weapon hidden in the car. If he used pepper spray, her eyes could have been affected for an hour, or he might have sprayed his partner.

“We don’t get paid to have conflict with people,” Aiken said.

Goodwin was charged with driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence. She was treated at Bethesda Memorial Hospital after complaining that her arm was numb, according to the report, and then transferred to jail.

Ten months after the incident, she has two small marks on her arms from the probes. She says she placed in the top 100 of 8,000 contestants in Jamaica.

Goodwin said the department has treated her family unfairly ever since a relative filed a lawsuit against the city in the early ’90s. She had been calling her brother to come to the scene because, she told officers, “I don’t trust y’all.”

Copyright © 2005, The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved.