Bicyclists say they were arrested after running stop signs in Charlotte County

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

Two people are facing criminal charges after they say they were stopped by deputies for not stopping at stop signs on their bicycles.

It’s two separate cases of he said and she said versus deputies and what they said in Charlotte County.

Nicole Christian and Shane Steward don’t know each other, but they share a similar experience. They both say Charlotte County deputies stopped them on their bikes and arrested them.

Steward said he realized he was being followed as he was taking out his trash and as soon as he left his house.

“I asked [the deputy] why she stopped me.,” Steward said in Port Charlotte. “She goes, ‘You didn’t see a stop sign back there.’ I said, ‘you’re stopping me for a stop sign?’”

Christian said the deputy started out by telling her that her bike light was out, but she says it was not. Christian says the deputy then told her she ran a stop sign. She says he had already turned his lights on to pull her over at that point, so she was trying to find a safe place to pull over.

“If I had stopped at the stop sign, [the deputy] would have got me for attempting to elude because I continued after stopping,’” Christian said in Port Charlotte.

Both were stopped for running a stop sign but not while they were driving cars. They were riding their bikes. Steward was going to work at 4 a.m. And Christian was riding her bike home after midnight. Their experiences happened 18 months apart, and neither made it to their destination.

“She put the siren on, so that’s when I pulled off to the side of the road at a friend’s house,” Steward said. “I felt safe there because there’s a lot of lights in the side of his house, so that’s where I stopped at.”

“I pointed down here to this intersection where there is a light, and I said, ‘I’ll stop down there,’” Christian said.

Both Steward and Christian told us they counted five deputies on the scene. Shane was pulled over in early October and claims one of the responding deputies pulled on his arm.

“I asked the officer not to grab me,” Steward said. “He said, ‘calm down bro, calm down’. I said, ‘I am calm. I just don’t want you touching me.’”

Deputies arrested Steward for resisting arrest and attempting to elude officers.

Deputies arrested Christian in February 2018 for refusing to provide identification.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office shared a statement in response to why the traffic stops for both Steward and Christian led to criminal charges, which are documented in arrest reports for both individuals:

“For the arrest of Shane Steward, I pulled the arrival times that were stamped into the call from each of the deputies. The deputy called in the traffic stop at 3:47 a.m. Two additional deputies assigned themselves to the call once the initial deputy advised he was not stopping. This is a very normal practice, as it raises concerns for officer safety when someone is not stopping during a traffic stop. An additional deputy arrived at 3:54 a.m. On this call log, I am unable to see when they cleared, but the last deputy that arrived appeared to only show up to transport the bicycle to impound, as he didn’t arrive until 3:59 a.m. and did transport the bicycle.”

“As far as commenting further on each arrest, both PCA’s clearly outline the violation of law each person committed. In both cases, a traffic stop turned into criminal charges due to their actions which are documented in the report. Deputies conduct traffic stops in a professional and consistent manner. In both of the cases referenced by the Charlotte Sun, the violator’s actions during the traffic stop (fleeing the stop, refusing to provide identification) determined that the incident ended in their arrest. Neither person has filed a complaint regarding their arrest with our Professional Compliance division and Nicole Christian was found guilty after a trial in 2018.”

“Traffic safety is important, and deputies are tasked with enforcing traffic violations during their daily patrol. Depending on availability, it is common practice to provide each other back-up and in cases where someone is not cooperating or displaying other concerning behavior (to include fleeing) more than one deputy is likely to arrive until the scene is under control and safe.”

“To answer your inquiry on statistics; January 1, 2018-present, we’ve written 518 citations for stop signs. It was tricky to pull ones just for bicycles because there is not a check box on the citation for bicycle vs. motor vehicle. Our IT people looked into it and we believe that 3 of the citations were for bicycles and not vehicles.”

Neither Christian nor Steward filed complaints with the sheriff’s office after their arrests. Both return to court in November. Steward will stand trial. Christian wants her record cleared.

“You’re gonna charge me as a felony,” Steward said. “That stays with you for life.”

“I don’t know where to go to clear my name,” Christian said. “To get the truth out. To find justice.”

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