- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A complaint filed with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office accuses Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) of getting out of his police cruiser to berate a motorist May 5 at the Waldorf intersection of St. Charles Parkway and Route 5.
La Plata resident Ashley Farmer filed the complaint hours after the alleged incident, in which she claims that she was sitting at a red light at the intersection between 1:15 and 1:30 p.m. when she heard a knock on her driver’s side window.
She looked to find Coffey, in a white dress shirt and dress pants, standing outside her car, the complaint states. Farmer alleges Coffey asked her to roll down her window, but it was broken, so he “started yelling at me” through her rear window, which was slightly down.
According to the complaint, Coffey berated Farmer for following him “too [expletive] close” and threatened to give her “five hundred dollars worth of [expletive] fines.”
Coffey then hit Farmer’s driver’s side window and went back to his cruiser, which was in the next lane.
Farmer states in the complaint that she was not following Coffey closely because her car was in the other lane from his cruiser.
“The [sheriff] approached me in a threatening manner and it was not appropriate from the head officer of the department,” Farmer states in the complaint.
Coffey’s account of the incident closely mirrors Farmer’s, but he vehemently denied cursing at her.
Coffey said he and his wife had just left church and picked up a 12-year-old La Plata boy whom Coffey mentors, and were on their way to the Blaine Lessard Memorial Trap Shoot hosted by Charles County Crime Solvers at the Metro Gun Club on Poplar Hill Road in Waldorf when he noticed Farmer’s car “coming up on me very fast” on St. Charles Parkway.
Coffey said he could tell Farmer was speeding because he was driving the speed limit. When Farmer got up close to Coffey’s cruiser, she stayed tight on his bumper, he said.
By the time they stopped at the light, Farmer had switched lanes, Coffey said. Dressed in his church clothes, Coffey said, he got out his car and approached Farmer’s, tapped on her driver’s side window and asked her to roll it down.
When she didn’t, Coffey said he elected to talk to her through the slightly opened back window.
“I tell her, ‘You are an aggressive driver, you are following me too closely,’” he said.
When Farmer started to argue back, “I said, ‘Do not argue with me. I will give you $500 worth of tickets.’”
Coffey said he then slapped Farmer’s window and returned to his cruiser. The sheriff seemed surprised that a complaint was filed, and irritated that he had been accused of cursing.
“I will tell you this, I do not use that kind of language, no matter how mad I get. Everyone that knows me knows I do not use that kind of language,” he said. “My wife and the little boy were in my car and could hear every word that I was saying. I never curse in front of my wife, and I would never curse in front of this little boy who I’ve been mentoring.”
Coffey said he thought he was letting Farmer off easy by not writing her a ticket for speeding and aggressive driving.
“I’m really irritated that I gave this woman a break. Certainly, I had to raise my voice because I was talking to her through a crack in her back window,” he said. “I don’t make a lot of traffic stops, because if it I did make a lot of traffic stops, I would never get where I’m going. That’s how bad people drive around here.”
Coffey said the complaint is being handled by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
“Outside of the curse words she claims I’ve said, I’ve done nothing inappropriate or wrong,” the sheriff said.
Farmer declined to be interviewed, saying she has consulted with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and is coordinating with that group to craft a public response.