On Aug. 31, while area law enforcement ramped up enforcement of the Ted Foss Move Over Law, Breezy Point police officer Josef Garcia stopped a fleeing car with a child in the back seat, whose speeds at times reached more than 100 miles per hour, and arrested Victoria Jade Litteral, 20, who now faces numerous charges.
A Crow Wing County District Court criminal complaint against Litteral, of Brainerd, shows she is charged with fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, a felony; giving a peace officer a false name, a gross misdemeanor; endangering a child in a situation that could cause harm or death, a gross misdemeanor; obstructing the legal process, a gross misdemeanor; as well as another misdemeanor and a petty misdemeanor charge.
The complaint states that as Garcia witnessed another officer during a traffic stop, a vehicle passed the officer’s car without moving over to the left lane. That offense is a violation of the Ted Foss Move Over Law.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the law was named for State Patrol Trooper Ted Foss, who was killed 13 years ago by a passing car during a traffic stop on the shoulder of Interstate 90 in Winona. The law states that on a road with two lanes or more, motorists must keep over one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights activated.
The complaint states that after Litteral was pulled over, she provided Garcia with the name Brittany Marie Wood and a birth date, but no driver’s license. He also noted an infant in a car seat in the back of Litteral’s vehicle, the complaint states. When Garcia looked up the name and saw Wood’s driver’s license photo, he noted it didn’t look like Litteral.
The complaint goes on to say that Garcia questioned Litteral about the name she offered, and Litteral continued to claim she was Wood. When Garcia asked Litteral to step out of the vehicle, she put the car in drive and drove away.
Breezy Point Police Chief Kevin Merschman said Litteral had a warrant out for her arrest for a probation violation, which could have been her motivation for providing a false name.
The complaint states that Garcia advised the dispatch center of his pursuit of Litteral’s car, and as the car traveled north on Highway 371 in the Nisswa area, the car at times drove into oncoming traffic at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, forcing vehicles onto the shoulder.
The complaint states that Litteral also drove her vehicle onto the right shoulder, exceeding 80 miles per hour, to pass vehicles, and while travelling north at times exceeded 100 miles per hour.
The complaint also states that Garcia feared the driver could be a fugitive and possibly did not have lawful custody of the child in the back seat of her car.
Garcia used the pursuit intervention technique (PIT) to force Litteral to a stop. The PIT involves breaking the back tires of a vehicle loose, forcing it into a ditch. The complaint states that Garcia coordinated with officers ahead of the two cars to slow Litteral’s car before using the PIT to stop her in the ditch.
Garcia approached Litteral, issuing loud commands and drawing his pistol when he saw her reaching behind her, the complaint states. Garcia moved to the driver’s side door. Litteral removed the infant from its seat, and Garcia removed the child from her hands and passed it to another officer. When Litteral refused to exit the car, three officers placed her prone, put her hands behind her back and handcuffed her.
Garcia, also a paramedic, conducted a check of the infant, who had no obvious injury, the complaint states. Litteral was shouting from the back seat of the police car, the complaint states, and when Garcia rolled down the window to speak with her, she attempted to climb out the window. While struggling, Litteral yelled that she was pregnant and police had stomped on her stomach, the complaint states.
The complaint goes on to say that Litteral was evaluated at the OB/GYN ward of Essentia Health and was released.
The infant was released to its grandmother, the criminal complaint states. According to online court case documents, Litteral’s next hearing is Sept. 25.