DEA bicycle collision: 5 takeaways

An agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to avoid prosecution for running a stop sign and killing a Salem cyclist last spring. That effort has cracked open evidence in the criminal case against the federal agent.

Samuel T. Landis, 38, and Marion County prosecutors previously got a federal judge’s approval to keep the public from accessing exhibits they were using to argue his prosecution. But state Justice Department attorneys subsequently filed most of the exhibits in a higher federal court, where they became public last week.

The newly unsealed grand jury testimony and investigators’ accident reconstruction report provide a fuller account of the March 2023 collision that killed Marganne Allen, 53. 

Five key disclosures from those government records:

  1. Landis was one of seven agents tailing a drug courier with ties to a Mexican cartel

The DEA’s operations plan details for the first time what agents hoped to accomplish on their afternoon mission last year. An informant had arranged to meet the courier – part of a federal investigation into a drug cartel smuggling fentanyl out of Mexico to sell in the Salem area. Landis, four other federal agents and three Salem police officers tag-teamed the courier in separate, unmarked vehicles, hoping to avoid alerting the driver he was being followed.

  1. Landis was one of the farthest agents from the courier

Landis was nearly a mile away from the courier’s car at the time of the crash. He knew the team had the courier in sight, but he wanted to catch up with the other agents and was driving “with a purpose,” he later explained. Landis and his fellow agents testified the mission was not urgent, with no plans for an arrest. 

  1. Landis sped down Leslie Street, then slowed down before running a stop sign

Traffic investigators pegged Landis’ speed down the residential street at 37 miles per hour. The agent braked before the stop sign at Leslie Street, but entered the intersection going about 19 miles per hour. He did not stop before driving into Allen’s path.

  1. The cyclist tried to ensure she was visible to drivers

Allen wore a bright yellow jacket. She rode with a flashing white light attached to the front of her bike. She was traveling an estimated 25 mph – the speed limit. Landis said after the collision that he didn’t see the cyclist.

  1. DEA agents tended to Allen immediately after the crash

Witnesses told Salem Reporter that Landis didn’t appear to approach the cyclist, but testimony from agents said otherwise. Agents tried to shield Allen from the rain while assuring her that help was on the way. Landis himself tried to comfort her and checked for a pulse, bloodying his hands.

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.