DA investigating controversial traffic stop after Philadelphia official, husband arrested on I-76

No charges will be decided in Celena Morrison, Darius McLean arrests until investigation is over, DA says

Tuesday, March 5, 2024
DA investigating controversial traffic stop after Philadelphia official, husband arrested on I-76
DA investigating controversial traffic stop after Philadelphia official, husband arrested on I-76

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Video of a combative traffic stop that is circulating online is now part of an investigation. Philadelphia's Executive Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, Celena Morrison, and her husband were arrested Saturday after a traffic stop escalated.

Morrison recorded part of the incident and her sister posted the video online.

Now, the next steps regarding charges and how Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker responds all hinge on the result of the district attorney's investigation.

The District Attorney's Office is asking for the public's help in collecting more evidence, including video and photos, as they continue to investigate the case.

District Attorney Larry Krasner has said his office will not make any charging decisions until a thorough, even-handed investigation is complete.

At City Hall, council members conveyed their concerns to Action News.

"While I was watching the video, I began to get a little emotional. I've been involved in a number of traffic stops myself in the city of Philadelphia," said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who created Philadelphia's Driving Equality Law.

Around 9 a.m. Saturday, Pennsylvania State Police say a trooper pulled over a gray Infiniti on Interstate 76 West for multiple violations. Morrison was behind the wheel.

"I work for the mayor, I work for the mayor," Morrison could be heard saying on the video.

"I've often done the same thing. I communicate that I work for the city, just so the officer understands I'm not a threat," noted Thomas, while watching the video.

According to state police, a green Dodge then pulled up and parked behind the trooper, which prompted the trooper to approach the Dodge. State police say the driver of the Dodge became verbally combative, refused multiple lawful orders, and resisted arrest.

That driver was later identified as Morrison's husband, Darius McLean.

"That is my husband," Morrison tells the officer.

In Morrison's cell phone video of the incident, you can see McLean on the side of the highway with the state trooper standing over him.

"Please, just stop. No! It's cause I'm Black," McLean is heard saying.

"It's not cause you're Black," the officer responds.

"Yes it is," McLean rebutted.

The officer then walks toward Morrison and tells her to "turn around." Next, the video appears to show the phone being knocked to the ground.

"Give me your hands or you are getting tased," the officer is heard saying during the scuffle.

On Saturday, Mayor Cherelle Parker responded to the controversial video.

"A video circulating on social media that depicts a portion of the incident is very concerning to me and I will have no further comment until the investigation has been completed," she said in a social media post.

The video continues to record while on the ground.

"This was a simple traffic stop cause you didn't have your lights on. You're tailgating," the officer explains to the couple. "Then, I don't know who you are. I don't need somebody rolling up on me."

"There was no need at all," one person is heard saying.

"You were about to tase me. You pulled your gun on me," another voice says.

"You were fighting with me," says a third voice.

"No, I wasn't fighting you," someone responds.

Both were arrested for resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, and other related charges.

Councilmember Jamie Gautier, who works in the same building as Morrison, commented on the video on Monday.

"We saw an officer doing all of this in what should have been a pretty routine traffic stop," Gautier stated.

The Pennsylvania State Troopers Association did not comment on specifics of the case, but released a statement to Action News that reads in part, "Every day, Pennsylvania State Troopers go to work prepared to lay down their lives for their fellow citizens."

City leaders say they may be looking to state officials as they keep an eye on the investigation.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is asked to contact the DA's Special Investigations Unit at DAO_SIU@phila.gov or 215-686-9608.