Disabled Oregon woman on mobility scooter arrested after leading police on low-speed chase

Bodycam footage shows Jennifer Gayman leading Oregon police on a scooter chase.

April 24, 2019, 6:31 PM

A disabled Oregon woman on an electric mobility scooter was arrested and charged with leading police on a low-speed chase after officers stopped her for riding the scooter on a sidewalk without a helmet, her lawyer told ABC News.

Jennifer Gayman of Brookings, Oregon, said she was driving home from a karaoke bar in November when police officers pulled her over and ticketed her even though she informed them that the scooter was prescribed by her doctor and that it was her only way of getting around, according to police bodycam footage of the incident released to ABC News on Wednesday by her lawyer.

"When I first heard about the case, I was very skeptical — that there's got to be another side to this. But that is what really happened," Gayman's attorney, Jacob Johnstun, told ABC News.

Gayman has a genetic abnormality called Best's disease, which has left her with macular degeneration in both eyes. She also suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and peripheral neuropathy.

"I don't know why this is happening to me, especially when I've been riding around this scooter for two years in this town," Gayman told ABC affiliate station KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon.

Johnstun said the incident unfolded on the night of Nov. 18. "It's important to note that she wasn't drinking that night," he told ABC News.

In the police bodycam video, at least two officers are seen stopping Gayman on the sidewalk in downtown Brookings.

"Do you understand? It's my mobility scooter. It's how I get around. I don't have a car," Gayman is heard telling the officers in the video.

One of the officers responded, "It's still an electronic scooter."

Becoming agitated, Gayman told the officers, "You're taking my disability act and you're throwing it in the garbage."

One of the officers then pulled out his iPhone and Googled the Oregon Department of Transportation laws governing the use of electronic scooters.

"I'm legally blind; that's why I have this," Gayman told the officers. "I'll let everybody know that you have bad laws in this town. These people ride these scooters for disabilities. You want them riding in the street so they can get hit by a car. You're kidding me?"

The officers wrote Gayman a ticket for unsafe operation of a motor assisted scooter on a sidewalk, operation of a motor assisted scooter in a crosswalk and failure to wear protective head gear.

"You're not allowed to ride this thing without a helmet. You're not allowed to ride it in a crosswalk. You are not allowed to ride it on sidewalks. It has to stay in the bike lane," a police officer told Gayman. "Until you get a helmet you are not allowed to drive this thing."

But once Gayman was handed her citation, she took off, riding her scooter on the sidewalk.

"You're going to go to jail if you continue driving," an officer told Gayman as she drove away.

Officers then chased Gayman with their lights and siren on and radioed for backup.

They pursued Gayman all the way to the garage of her home where they handcuffed her, read her Miranda Rights, searched her and placed her under arrest on suspicion of attempting to elude police, interfering with a peace officer and disorderly conduct.

ABC News reached out the Brookings Police Department for comment, but it did not respond.

Johnstun filed a claim against the city this week, a precursor to a lawsuit. He said he plans to file a lawsuit accusing the officers of violating Gayman's rights under the Americans with Disability Act and discriminating against a disabled person.

He said Gayman continues to ride her mobility scooter around town.

"She still doesn't have any other way of getting around," Johnstun said.

He added that the incident has "been incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing" for Gayman.