Woman: Officer left for two hours during traffic stop
Dallas: He faces internal affairs inquiry
08:57 AM CDT on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
By HOLLY YAN / The Dallas Morning News
At worst, Irita Neal thought she might get a speeding ticket. Or maybe a ticket for littering, too.
Instead, the 27-year-old administrative assistant said, she waited more than two hours for a police officer to return during a traffic stop Saturday in Pleasant Grove.
Then he returned her key ring with someone else's keys on it.
"I can't explain why he did it," Ms. Neal said Tuesday afternoon.
Dallas police Lt. Vernon Hale said the officer, Russell Trask, will be investigated by internal affairs.
He's been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of the investigation and couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Police haven't detailed why the incident occurred. Several high-ranking officers said Officer Trask hasn't been a discipline problem.
Ms. Neal said she was speeding on Bruton Road near Utica Drive on her way to make a car payment shortly after noon.
She threw a snack cake wrapper out the window and noticed that a patrol car had started following her.
"He said I was going 52 in a 35," Ms. Neal said. She said Officer Trask seemed suspicious of her.
"He said he was going to go see what she threw away," said Ms. Neal's mother, Thelma Hackworth, who arrived at the scene later.
But before beginning his search, Officer Trask allegedly told Ms. Neal to give him her car keys.
"I gave him the keys, but the car was still running," Ms. Neal said. "He said, 'Is this car stolen?' I did get mad by then because this car's not stolen."
The officer apparently wasn't familiar with the newer-model Nissan Altima's technology, which requires a remote sensor and push button instead of a key to run.
Ms. Neal said Officer Trask also asked for her driver's license and insurance card and then left in his squad car.
Ms. Neal called her mother, who came to wait with her. About an hour passed before Ms. Hackworth called police to see what was happening.
"Two officers came ... the whole time, they didn't say anything to us," Ms. Hackworth said. "I felt ignored."
Ms. Neal said she got out of her car and paced around the neighborhood while waiting for Officer Trask to come back. Her mother said that she considered leaving with her daughter, "but when he came back, it'd be another charge," Ms. Hackworth said.
Officer Trask returned to the scene about 2:30 p.m., the women said.
"He said he was looking for me," Ms. Neal said. Officer Trask let her go without a ticket.
"All this for nothing," she said.
It wasn't until Ms. Neal went home several hours later that she noticed that the key to her apartment didn't work. She tried the key to her mother's house. It also didn't fit.
"I called the police. They thought I was crazy," Ms. Neal said. "I kept calling and kept calling."
A police sergeant eventually came to talk to Ms. Neal.
"He told me the officer admitted to switching them out," she said. "I was totally surprised."
Rebecca Lopez of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) contributed to this report.