The driver of a pickup truck involved in a fatal accident in March sped through a Salem neighborhood and drove through a stop sign without stopping before colliding with a cyclist, according to witness accounts and video obtained by Salem Reporter. The cyclist was killed.
Authorities say the investigation into the March 28 crash that killed Marganne Allen, a state worker and local cyclist, is still underway after nearly seven weeks. Reports were submitted to prosecutors on Friday, May 12.
Police earlier identified the pickup truck driver as Samuel Landis, 37, an on-duty agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The federal agency has previously said Landis would not comment and it hasn’t responded to a series of questions about the conduct of its agent.
A Salem Reporter investigation found that the pickup truck driver drove down Leslie Street at excessive speed, past the stop sign and into the intersection at Southeast High Street where the collision occurred.
Neighbors in the tight-knit community on Gaiety Hill responded immediately that afternoon to tend to the injured cyclist. They shielded Allen from the rain and traffic, as the driver spoke on his phone and paced around the scene but did not approach the victim.
The Salem Police Department reported at the time that Landis drove into the intersection and crossed the cyclist’s path.
Salem Reporter established the sequence of events surrounding the fatal collision through video and interviews with witnesses.
Witnesses asked not to be named. Some said they did not want to draw attention to themselves at the expense of the victim’s family, with others saying they feared reprisal from police for describing what they saw.
The fatality was initially investigated by Salem police but then was turned over to the Keizer Police Department. The Salem agency said it was doing so because of its partnership with the DEA in a local task force.
Questions about the crash remain even as people continue to leave fresh flowers at a memorial for Allen at the intersection.
Agencies, saying a criminal investigation remained underway, wouldn’t answer what the DEA agent’s destination was or clarify the role of other undercover officers that day. They would not answer whether the pickup truck was seized.
Records indicate that at least one other undercover drug investigator arrived soon after the collision. The investigator was a Salem police officer assigned to the DEA’s Salem task force.
Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack through a spokeswoman responded to only a few written questions from Salem Reporter.
The current contract between Salem and the DEA was executed last October, continuing the operation of the local drug task force. Salem can recover overtime and expenses for three officers it assigns to the task force. The federal agency paid the city $53,716 in 2022 for such costs, city spokeswoman Courtney Knox Busch said.
The contract states that the Salem police assigned to the task force report to the DEA – not the Salem Police Department.
Authorities have not said whether Landis is assigned to the task force.
Lt. Chris Nelson of the Keizer Police Department said the agency has provided updates to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office throughout the investigation and referred the investigation to prosecutors on Friday, May 12.
Keizer police also have “communicated with the DEA to ask questions, collect and analyze evidence, and obtain statements. Investigative facts haven’t been shared,” he said.
On Tuesday, March 28, Allen left her job with the state Agriculture Department and was riding her bicycle south on High Street on her afternoon trip home through the Gaiety Hill neighborhood.
Video obtained by Salem Reporter captured a pickup truck at 3:42 p.m. traveling east on Leslie Street towards High Street.
The news organization provided video to a traffic investigator certified by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction.
The investigator, who asked not to be identified, estimated the driver was traveling down the street at an average speed of 37 miles per hour – 12 miles over the speed limit on Leslie.
Video then shows the pickup truck driver traveled through the intersection at High Street without heeding the stop sign that would have given Allen the right of way.
The cyclist collided with the pickup.
The driver then pulled through the intersection and parked next to a curb at its southeast corner, according to witnesses and tire markings made later by police.
How the collision happened
1 – A pickup truck estimated moving at 37 mph traveled east on Southeast Leslie Street on Tuesday, March 28.
2 – Cyclist Marganne Allen was riding downhill on Southeast High Street on her way home from work.
3 – The pickup truck approached the intersection, controlled by a stop sign on Southeast Leslie Street.
4 – Video showed the pickup driver drove through the intersection without stopping.
5 – According to Salem police, the pickup truck crossed into cyclist Marganne Allen’s path.
6 – The pickup driver continued through the intersection, pulling to the curb on Leslie Street
As many as five neighbors and passers-by heard a loud noise, saw the accident scene from their window or driveway and rushed to the intersection, where Allen was lying still.
They held an umbrella over Allen, covered her legs with a blanket, kept traffic away and made sure nobody moved her. Others stood or crouched by Allen until emergency crews arrived.
The driver made no attempt to tend to the victim after the crash, witnesses said.
Dispatch logs show that medics, fire crews and police were called to the scene at 3:44 p.m. – just two minutes after the truck was filmed speeding through the neighborhood. Police have not said who called 911, and the city of Salem last week refused to release a recording of the emergency call, saying it was part of the investigation.
Medics arrived in about three and a half minutes, with Salem police arriving a minute later and parking on various streets nearby to control traffic.
Medics placed Allen onto a gurney and into an ambulance before taking her to Salem Hospital three blocks away. Police said in a statement a day after the crash that she later died at the hospital.
After the ambulance left the scene, witnesses asked the driver if he struck Allen. He responded that the cyclist had hit him, they said.
Witnesses said they never heard the driver identify himself as a law enforcement officer.
They say after police finished the on-scene investigation, the driver hauled a large bag out of the bed of the pickup and then left the scene in a black SUV.
Video also showed a black SUV at the intersection seconds before the collision. Authorities refuse to explain how the vehicles are connected or whether the SUV driver also was a law enforcement officer.
Salem police investigated the collision for about four hours, closing the intersection to traffic, spray painting markings on the pavement and flying a drone.
The Salem officers collected data at the crash scene and prepared an initial traffic accident reconstruction report that was then provided to Keizer’s Traffic Safety Unit. The two traffic teams exchanged reconstruction data, according to Nelson.
Salem police have said none of its officers were on the scene at the time of the collision but confirmed that at least one arrived afterward. The Salem officer was one of two officers assigned to the federal agency’s Salem task force.
The Salem and Keizer police departments declined to say how many Salem undercover officers responded to the collision scene or what their role was.
The DEA did not respond to questions about whether the agency owned the pickup truck or whether the agency received information from the truck’s event data recorder showing its speed or braking actions in the seconds leading up to the collision.
At some point, citizens at the scene noticed three to five men in plain clothes standing with the driver at the intersection. None identified themselves as officers.
Witnesses reported seeing people at the scene, including some uniformed officers, taking pictures of the truck.
Records obtained by Salem Reporter through a public records request established that an undercover Salem drug investigator texted 24 photos of the crash to a DEA official about 21 minutes after emergency crews arrived on the scene. Salem police later confirmed that the officer, assigned to the DEA’s Salem task force, texted the pictures to his DEA supervisor.
Disclosing evidence to outsiders is unusual in a police investigation. Police officials have refused to discuss the role of the undercover officer or why he was immediately sending evidence in a crash investigation to the employer of the man who police identified as the driver.
“We have no comment about the propriety of sharing the photos; that is internal to those agencies,” Nelson said in an email Thursday. “However, we did confirm the photographs sent to DEA were the same ones entered into evidence and provided to us by Salem PD.”
And the city of Salem on Friday, May 12, acknowledged the existence of a previously undisclosed communication between Salem police and the DEA. The city earlier said it had released all documents to Salem Reporter about such communications.
The city released the contents of the message on Monday, May 15. The records showed that Angela Hedrick, public information officer for the Salem police, sent two emails to a DEA public information officer, Alison Grande, a day after the collision.
The first email, sent at 11 a.m., contained a draft press release about the collision with no other explanatory information. That version of the statement did not identify the victim or the driver by name and incorrectly listed the victim’s age.
Hedrick then sent another email to Grande about two and a half hours later with an updated press release, which named both the victim and the driver. City officials revealed that the email was sent one minute before the Salem police publicly issued its first press release about the crash, identifying the driver by name but not his occupation.
After police reopened the intersection, someone retrieved the pickup truck from the scene. Police officials refuse to say who did so or whether it was seized by authorities. They would not address what is routine regarding vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
Meantime, witnesses said, the red light on the back of Allen’s bicycle blinked for hours as it lay in the roadway.
According to witnesses, her relatives started tracking down her whereabouts when she did not arrive home as expected. Coworkers say Allen was listed as a Jane Doe at the hospital after her arrival.
Relatives were preparing to retrace her route to look for her when police notified them of her whereabouts at 8 p.m. That was over four hours after the collision.
Womack wouldn’t answer questions about the notification.
Managing Editor Rachel Alexander and reporter Abbey McDonald contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.