12 04 2008

Disabled Woman In Hot Water After Parking In Handicapped Space

April 11, 2008

NBC10.com – Greater Philadelphia

http://www.nbc10.com/news/15862060/detail.html

Chances are you’ve watched the NBC 10 Investigators chase down able-bodied drivers who parked in handicapped parking spots.

On Friday night, NBC 10’s Vince DeMentri reported about a woman with a disability who ended up in hot water when she parked in a handicapped parking spot.

The South Carolina woman with a disability just visited New Jersey. But before she left, she got some strange souvenirs: a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot and a trip to jail, complete with handcuffs.

“They put the handcuffs on me, handcuffed me to the chair, took my pictures and told me that I have to sit there,” said Yolanda Davis.

How did Davis end up 658 miles from her Darlington, S.C, home handcuffed to a chair accused of making threats to a government official?

“Having a handicapped sticker on my car — which I came through seven different states giving me the privilege to park in any handicapped zone — I parked there. When I came out from my niece’s house, I noticed there was a ticket there,” she said.

Davis soon found out this wasn’t just any handicapped spot. At the bottom of the sign it says, “Reserved.”

After getting the ticket, Davis asked at the police station why she got the ticket.

“He said to me, ‘Well, you got a ticket because that handicapped (parking space) belongs to someone. I asked him, ‘How am I supposed to identify that this is a personal handicapped (space)?’ He said, ‘That number means that it’s only for the Burlington resident that lives across (from the handicapped space).’ I said to him, ‘How am I supposed to know again?’ And he said, ‘That that’s not your problem. You pay the ticket, or you go to jail,'” Davis said.

In all of her travels, Davis said she has never seen anything like this sign, and she thinks it’s unclear.

“I am not from here. How am I supposed to know that?” she asked.

The NBC 10 Investigators stopped by to see if the crowd hanging out at Ike’s Barber Shop knew what the sign meant.

“It says reserved for handicapped, so I would think that anyone who’s handicapped could park there,” one man said.

And do people understand what the reserved sign with a number on the bottom means?

“I don’t know what that is. What is that? It’s not clear,” the man said.

“That’s actually reserved parking in front of someone’s residence who lives there,” said Judy Irwin. “As long as my number’s under there and it says reserved for my number, then I am allowed to park there, not anyone else with a reserved sign or not.”

Irwin knows what the sign means. She has a disabled license plate, and the town put a sign in front of her house.

“When I come home … I don’t have a place to park because young people use it,” Irwin said. “And I have to walk across the street, cross over the tracks, which I’m very afraid of.”

But how did Davis end up handcuffed to a chair? She started asking questions.

She said she was trying to get a copy of the law and got in trouble for something she said to an officer at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“I say to her, ‘It’s OK, you know? It’s OK. I am a Christ believer.’ I raised my hand and said, ‘I am going to pray about this situation because the word of God is more powerful than a .357-Magnum, and no weapon against me will prosper,” Davis said.

But later, she was arrested for making threats against a government official.

In the complaint, authorities said she threatened by stating words to the effect, “There is a psalm in the Bible, and I have a .357-Magnum in my car. They’re going to pay and I’m not.”

Davis said she doesn’t own a gun, didn’t threaten anyone and was just quoting the Bible.

“Probably immediately, if not sooner, we’re going to take a look at this,” said Burlington Mayor Dr. James Fazzone.

He said he thinks the signs could be much clearer, and he’s going to take action.

“We’ve created a solution to one problem, and we’ve created another one. But I believe this is something that’s rectifiable,” Fazzone said.

In the meantime, Davis is awaiting a hearing on her threat charges. But she has driven back to South Carolina, the land of “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places,” as its license plates say, as well as traditional handicapped spaces, DeMentri reported.

“From nowhere Channel 10 came up to my assistance, and I’m leaving now. But you know what? I have a smile on my face because I left something behind for the rest of the people that are victimized,” Davis said.

There was some good news to report Friday. A judge threw out the parking ticket but Davis still must come back to New Jersey for the threat charges.

Police said they take threats seriously, and after Davis complained, they’re investigating the handling of the case.

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