Two central Iowa women who claim they were wrongly accused of running a stop sign on their bicycles are fighting the case in court. They’ve also filed a complaint, saying the officer was harassing them. It happened last Thursday on the High Trestle Trail at Sheldahl. Lisa Schaa of Webster City says she was riding her bike with Cathy Olson of Boone when they encountered Polk County Deputy Dale Petersen.
“He was yelling at us out of his car, taunting us about, ‘Don’t you know what that octagonal sign is,’ and he was kind of angry,” Schaa says. “My girlfriend decided she didn’t want to listen to him any more and went around his car. He put his car in gear and gave chase down the bike trail. Obviously, she wasn’t going very fast so it didn’t take him long to catch her.”
Schaa says the experience with Deputy Peterson was “frightening.” She claims he kept them waiting 20 minutes before ticketing them both for running a stop sign, which she says they didn’t do, and also ticketed Olson for not following an officer’s order.
“I was not very happy and told him I was going to fight it in court and he told me to go for it and he said, ‘You need to sign this or I’m going to impound the vehicles and take you both to jail,’ and we were just flabbergasted,” Schaa says.
“I was shaking. My girlfriend said, ‘You are so angry, sir, I’m a little afraid of you…you’re carrying a loaded weapon,’ and he said ‘That’s just too bad.'” The fine for failing to stop at a stop sign on the bike trail is $100 while failing to obey an officer carries a $200 fine.
Schaa says they’ve already made their first court appearance. Schaa says, “We went to court and we plead not guilty and we normally would have a court date with a judge but we’ve asked for a jury trial because we want to have a jury of our peers listen to how ridiculous this was because, as I told Deputy Dale, I did not run the stop sign.”
A Des Moines attorney has agreed to offer his services to both Schaa and Olson for free. No court date is set. The Polk County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident.
Deputy Petersen was also in the news in 2009 after fatally shooting a suicidal man with what he thought was a beanbag round. The county settled with the man’s family for $385,000.
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City