He was just trying to get to an early morning medical appointment.

But after Zach DeLong inadvertently pulled in front of a speeding Plymouth police officer, he set off a chain of events that led to the discipline of four officers and an online war of words between police backers and critics.

DeLong, an electrician from Barnstable, was driving with his brother on Route 3 North the morning of March 15, when he moved into the left lane to avoid cars merging onto the highway.

He didn’t notice Plymouth police officer James Keegan come up behind him. Keegan was going so fast, DeLong said, that he didn’t see the cruiser until it was just inches behind his Honda Pilot.

Keegan pulled him over and ticketed him for a marked lane violation, an expired inspection sticker, and not having his registration in the car.

DeLong described their exchange on Facebook:

“Told me I’m lucky he wasn’t texting because I would have hit the front of his cruiser. (He would have rear ended me). Told me I needed to slow down and give the cars getting in the highway the space to merge. “

Keegan also allegedly threatened to arrest DeLong’s brother for “speaking up,” DeLong said. Keegan also claimed police can drive as fast as they want, according to DeLong.

DeLong filed a complaint with the Plymouth Police Department on March 26 alleging rudeness. He received a verbal response from Captain Jason Higgins, who told him he’d have to fight the ticket, and the rudeness complaint couldn’t be sustained because there were no impartial witnesses, DeLong said.

Then DeLong asked Higgins to check Keegan’s speed, which is tracked by GPS in police cruisers.

A few days later, Higgins called back: Keegan – who was not enroute to an emergency callwas driving 91 miles an hour and would be disciplined, DeLong was told. And his ticket would be dismissed.

That might have been the end of it, but it wasn’t.

DeLong’s Facebook account of the incident sparked a barrage of social media posts — attacking and praising him.

People with names like Sarah Ashley and John Lash posted vicious, sometimes threatening comments.

“A joke is a grown man who comes on Facebook to cry to the entire town about a police officer being mean to him,” wrote Ashley.

Rory Thornton, another poster, countered: “A police officer that was obviously in the wrong — cops are held to higher standards, no? Sister, sister-in-law or just a friend?”

Lash wrote: “There are a lot of doctors in the area that will help you with your obvious mental illness and lack of taking responsibility for your own actions that initiated the traffic stop.”

But it was the Facebook account in the fictitious name of Jasmine Douglas that drew other Plymouth police officers into the fray, leading to their discipline as well.

The person who posted as Douglas, with a profile picture of a blonde woman who claimed to work at “Dunkin’,” cited DeLong’s driving record, which included prior warnings.

The public cannot access these records, kept in a state computer system called Criminal Justice Information Services, or CJIS. It is a violation for officers to look up records unless they have a legitimate reason.

DeLong asked Higgins to investigate who had improperly looked at his driving record.

Turned out three other officers had peeked at DeLong’s driving history — Robert Hackett, who allegedly created the Jasmine Douglas account, Gary Coyer, and Paul Reissfelder.

All four officers are now facing discipline, according to Chief Dana Flynn.

Keegan received a written reprimand for operating a cruiser “in an unsafe manner” and will be required to attend a Massachusetts Police Training Council course in how to be a better police officer called “servant officer” training.

According to Flynn, Keegan had previous rudeness complaints that also were not sustained. He described Keegan as a “proactive” officer.” Proactive officers receive complaints because they have “increased amount of interactions with the public,” he said.

Coyer and Reissfelder received written reprimands, and will receive re-training in CJIS procedures, according to Flynn.

Coyer, Reissfelder, and Hackett have also been reported to the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, or POST, which posts on its website substantiated complaints against police officers. The Commission is empowered to take its own disciplinary action if it finds additional discipline is warranted.

Hackett, the chief said, is currently on administrative leave and will face a disciplinary hearing.

Flynn said the four men’s “errors” shouldn’t mar the department’s overall record of excellence.

“These officers made a mistake, owned up to it, and accepted their discipline,” Flynn said.

“The errors that these officers made have been dealt with and should not take away from some of the extraordinary things that all Plymouth police officers do on a daily basis.”

Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea@plymouthindependent.org.

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