Back in 2008, I was a happy-go-lucky firefighter for Ludington enjoying the very end of a 40-mile bicycle ride and the prospect of a planned lunch with my girlfriend at the local China Buffet.  A stop sign at the corner of William and Loomis Street and an equally-rigid Ludington police officer changed all that.

Receiving a ticket for coasting a bicycle through an empty intersection was disturbing enough, but what made this a turning point in my life was the aftermath, when I challenged the ticket, and had a formal hearing for the 'stop sign violation' scheduled in the local district court.  I witnessed the court commit numerous procedural mistakes before and after the hearing, I witnessed Police Chief Mark Barnett unethically use his leverage with the fire department, I witnessed fire officers put into a difficult spot because of that and tendered my resignation because of it after serving eight years on the department. 

I witnessed Probate Court Judge Mark Raven unlawfully preside over my hearing and turn red as a beet when I challenged his jurisdiction and he could offer no proof for it (a later hearing with my attorney indicated he did not have that jurisdiction).  I witnessed Honorable Judge Raven rule against me and later hold me in civil contempt of court for not accepting his word that he had jurisdiction over the case.  I experienced three days in the local jail for his mistake.  

A stop sign began a personal journey of discovery on how corrupt the local government and justice system really was, discovery that has led to several hundred FOIA requests and thousands of hours of research into suspected corruption and questionable policy.  Research that has filled articles in the Ludington Torch for 13 years and launched successful lawsuits against those who would not live up to their potential as public servants, in Ludington and elsewhere.


Fourteen years later, two stop signs would play a part in insuring that I maintain focus on the corruption that seeps into our local governments.  Once again it involves a forced encounter with a Ludington police officer.  

On July 29, 2022, I was driving north on Washington Avenue with my trusty-not-rusty Ford Focus and as I passed the Radiant Church, the LPD's new ghost-lettered gray SUV heading south passed me.  I noticed him slowing down and he would proceed to do a U-turn.  I had been obeying all traffic laws, but I had a good idea I was the target of his maneuver.  A full rationale for that belief will be revealed in time, but as I teased in the first paragraph here, that time will come when the legal ramifications become clearer.

I was about midway on a trip to my Pine Street property from my Dowland Street residence which entailed me turning left on Filer Street, which I presumed would make the pursuing officer think that I was trying to evade him.  As I approached the stop sign at Madison, I glanced at the mirror and saw he had turned also and was nearly a block behind me; I made sure to stop at Madison, albeit momentarily, as I hoped to get to my friendly Pine Street driveway should he initiate a stop.

Helping that plan was some cross traffic coming up Madison which caused him to pause for a few seconds as I approached the stop sign at the end of Filer on Staffon Street.  Once again, I stopped before making a left turn and then made a right turn up Pine Street, I was in the home stretch.  His vehicle cleared Madison shortly before I turned off and was speeding up to 46 mph down Filer without light and siren being operable.  He would continue quickly around the two turns and indicate his intention to stop me early on that street, I would immediately pull over (at the spot on the above map labelled 2400).

I would soon learn that the pursuing officer was Michael Gilmurray, an officer whose exploits I have detailed over the last two years and have heard other complaints from good people that I have yet to write about.  In this June 2021 article, he performed an unlawful arrest on Devon Wakelin, where Wakelin's only crime was supposedly resisting the unannounced, violent assault of Gilmurray and Captain Haveman on him rather than conduct the needed investigation beforehand.  Their illegal assault on an innocent was compounded when the local prosecutor chose to impose felony charges of obstruction on Wakelin's girlfriend on the basis that she picked up the phone that had been dropped during his beatdown.  

The charges against Wakelin were dismissed, but Gilmurray would get a second round with Wakelin in his house, nearly killing the young man using aggressive force that was totally unnecessary in making another unlawful arrest.  Gilmurray would again play a leading part in violating numerous LPD policies in conducting a downtown arrest, handcuffing and detaining the male victim of what they claimed to be domestic violence, which was obviously a playful slap caught on several bodycams.  The woman would be absolved, but this case should have never been prosecuted, and Gilmurray was caught once again violating numerous LPD policies.

Gilmurray would also be found doing the same type of stuff in the recently revealed arrest of Joe Oquist for disorderly conduct back in 2021 while effectively admitting that city leaders do not equally enforce the law on area businesses.  Then there was that time this summer when he would handcuff and throw a couple of minors in the back of police cars, I personally witnessed both arrests and was appalled when I found out that Gilmurray had no pretext for the first arrest and nothing articulated for the second.  Gilmurray muted his audio when he talked derisively of me hanging out in the background, fortunately other officers didn't.

I would get his bodycam footage of the minor-arresting incident in late July and I would post the article critical of his behavior on July 29 at 2:43 PM.  After posting the article, I took a drive and was stopped by Officer Gilmurray at 3:16 PM, 33 minutes later.  I had zero dispute over the reason why he stopped me and have made proper remittals to the court for it.  But at the very top of his ticket was a couple of violations that I contested then and later:

Fortunately, I gave him notice that I would be requesting bodycam and dashcam footage of the traffic stop and was provided those records when I FOIA-ed them later that day.  For those concerned, I was not unlawfully arrested, never handcuffed, and never saw time in the back of his vehicle, unlike those people I have wrote about in similar encounters with this officer.

I did get these two unfounded charges added at the top of my ticket and after reviewing the footage was confident that I could show my innocence in court at a hearing, providing that it was adjudged fairly by the judge.  In an amazing coincidence, I ran into the district court magistrate, Glenn Jackson, less than an hour after this encounter while he was getting a to-go order at KFC and I was dining there with my daughter. 

When you deny responsibility for a charge like disobeying a stop sign (x2) you have the option to an informal or formal hearing, the former in front of the magistrate, the latter in front of District Court Judge John Middlebrook.  An informal hearing offered a couple of advantages:  the officer would not have an attorney, and if an appeal was needed it would go to Middlebrook rather than Circuit Court Judge Sniegowski, who would have conflicts of interest due to her past employment by the City of Ludington and her husband's continued long-term employment by the same employer of Officer Gilmurray.

Once I had arranged this with the court, I received a notice to appear at noon on August 31st and prepared myself for the defense of my driving.  Both Gilmurray and I would show up early for the battle, and Magistrate Jackson asked us both whether we wanted to start 10 minutes early, to which we both were in agreement.  

To his credit, Jackson noticed that the ticket was written under the authority of section 649a of the motor vehicle code, which was seemingly inapplicable to stop signs.  After finding that Gilmurray instead was using the authority of section 649(8), the magistrate asked me whether that was the charge I had prepared for, and if it wasn't that I would have more time to prepare for it.  Not wanting to win outright on a technicality that I had noticed too, I waived that right and told him I was prepared for the latter charge.  

In such hearings, the state must show by a preponderance of evidence that their charges are applicable.  Rather than listen to arguments first, Jackson consulted the video evidence contained in the dashcam of the officer's vehicle before allowing Gilmurray to lay out his case and me to rebut.

The magistrate noted that the distances in both cases between vehicles were quite big and while he had saw brakelights among the light and shade of the tree-lined streets, he could not make an outright determination just from the video and wanted to hear arguments. 

Dashcam footage just before the two stops on Madison and Staffon.  Would you be able to determine whether a full stop was made by the car almost a block ahead of you?

Gilmurray would lay out a case basically following the language of his police report on the traffic stop.   "The driver of the vehicle was speeding and driving in an unsafe manner.  The driver of the vehicle observed that I was behind him, where the driver decided to keep increasing his speed, and failed to stop at two intersections (one of the intersections, driving in front of a truck that was heading northbound on Madison Street."

              Here's the truck in motion I supposedly drove in front of, with my car well over 300 ft past the intersection

Jackson would be looking at the video at different speeds and magnifications throughout the testimonies, he would say it was hard to determine very much with all of the light and shadows around the Madison stop, but he was unsure of the Staffon one.  I questioned Gilmurray on whether his vehicle had any sort of radar operating that day that would allow him to determine my speed.  When he said that he didn't, I asked him how he was able to determine that I was speeding and accelerating all this time and then offered a rebuttal when he gave no reasonable answer.

The map shown above has numbers starting from O near Radiant Church to 2400 on Pine Street.  This is the distance I traveled in feet from when I was first caught on camera to when I pulled over.  The video shows 70 seconds elapsed over that distance traveled.  2400/70 will give the average speed traveled in that period:  34.3 ft./sec.

Before you conclude that going at 34 is nearly 10 above the speed limit you need to wait and convert ft/sec to mi/hr.  Multiple 34.3 times 3600 (# of seconds in an hour) and divide by 5280 (# of feet in a mile) and you find I was traveling an average of 23.3 mph.  If you believe that I was speeding, going around corners on two wheels, disregarding stop signs, accelerating etc., how could I do all that and remain 2 mph under the speed limit during that period? 

The argument does not prove the issue of whether I did stop at the signs, but it does call into question the officer's version of events being unreliable.  Additionally, I noted when the magistrate was unsure of the Staffon stop that one could use the shadows to figure out that the officer's position moved greatly while mine didn't.  Notice the shadows below in relation to both vehicles: 

Between the left and right picture, you can see a second has elapsed and the police car has advanced to the second shadow, meanwhile my vehicle has not made any forward progress in relation to the shadow I am under.  The court had stated, and I reminded them, that any stop, however momentary, qualifies as a stop under the law, and at neither intersection had I needed to yield to oncoming traffic, except in Officer Gilmurray's mind.

With Officer Gilmurray's narrative shattered and his dashcam footage showing the opposite of his assertions, impeaching his sworn testimony, Magistrate Jackson was effectively forced to admit that the officer failed to have a preponderance of evidence in his favor.  Jackson did thank Gilmurray for preserving the video (I agree since he has a record of video malfunctions in the Wakelin and Oquist cases) and salved his ego somewhat by saying that it was possible that his observations were true but could not be substantiated due to the limitations of the video. 

I would like to believe that was the case, but what sort of police officer sees a vehicle a block away in front of them apply their brakes, cease moving, and then writes them up two tickets for disregarding a stop sign?  The answer is a police officer that intentionally targeted the driver of that vehicle, and that will be shown conclusively to have happened in this instance once the other part of this traffic stop is found in my favor in that same district court in the coming months, and it may spell even more trouble for an LPD that has lost its way.  

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I think you bedazzled the Judge with your math, X, and befuddled Gilmurray. What a targeted annoyance. Is it not past time already for Gilmurray to be fired?

Bedazzlement and beguilement is the mark of a successful defense attorney.  I've always favored mathematical proofs over legal proofs, since the former is mostly objective and not at the mercy of court politics.  My use of math here was to show the judge that I was not driving like the reckless madman that Gilmurray portrayed, rather he was embellishing the facts characterizing my driving, and so his observations from a block away made from behind me should be equally questionable.  The result was that the decision hinged more on what the videos shown, and what they didn't.

Officer Gilmurray is making an awful lot of mistakes, so much that his continued employment by LPD is a major liability to the taxpayers.  He may find some common ground with Muskegon's new police chief should he apply there.

Love the story X. It's always a good thing when a citizen's rights are acknowledged by the Courts and the shady attitude of a rogue officer is exposed. Unlike Detroit,  Ludington is a quite town and rarely needs to employ heavy handed tactics in order to keep the peace. Why doesn't the LPD keep the officers busy by making sure that the patrons of the Ludington brewer's are not leaving those establishments in a drunken stupor and putting other innocent drivers and pedestrians at risk? 

    I would like to know how you as a cyclist who advocates sharing the road  equally with vehicles does not want to follow the rules of the road?    After reading the post this morning , I was traveling on a side street in Ludington when a young kid barred through a stop sign . I hit the brakes and the horn, he stopped in the center of the street.  Earlier this week , turning at the down town Wesco corner a cyclist came down the sidewalk quite fast and did not even look to see if there was traffic in his path. I hit the brakes as he did also. He looked at me like what was I doing . I'm getting to the point of what the hell , just run them over.

The term "rules of the road" has one believe that they apply to all the users of the road, when the proper conduct of a pedestrian walking on a road is very much different from that of a car's proper conduct driving down that road.   Bicyclists on the road are best served when they follow the responsibilities of vehicle drivers, however, some of the rules that apply to the efficient and safe operation of vehicles do not offer the same to bicycles.  This is why I advocate for Idaho Stop laws, and why more states every year adopt them:  bicycles treat stop signs as yield signs.   

In your two examples, which I will accept as accurate depictions of what happened without further proofs, the first bicyclist was in violation of 'right of way' provisions in the law, but that's academic since the 'rules of the road' in the Uniform Traffic Code dictate that motorists exercise due caution when they see young children near the roadway (on bikes or not).  They will learn their lesson over time, so I encourage you to lay on your horn, insult their parentage, and otherwise give them your wisdom on how to conduct themselves on the road.

Your last example reminds me of another incident that happened near Wesco which was caught on their cameras.  I contested the official narrative, which placed the blame on the bicyclist who was hit by a motorist who should have seen her for four seconds as he was crossing the avenue from the north.  Motorists do not notice the steep downhill leading to the downtown Wesco from the east, it requires great effort to stop on the sidewalk, some bicycles may not have the braking capacity if they are unaware of this gradient coming right before the street crossing.  Locals who try to be good drivers should take this into account near that area and exercise due caution once again.

It may sound as if I am excusing some of the blame for bicyclists, but I am not.  Young riders need to be given due consideration so that they can become old riders and drivers.  Both riders and drivers need to be fully aware of road conditions and how it may affect their interactions.  As a local, stump, you have to adapt to the realization that many of those bicyclists around town seemingly acting crazy are folks on vacation from big cities who only ride their pristine bike while on their annual trip and who believe they own all side streets of their small-town host.   Coexist with them by forgiving their minor transgressions by driving with caution when you see them, not by running them over.


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