Ramaswamy’s vehicle was parked illegally during Grinnell accident; police and driver refute misleading accounts of the incident

Ramaswamys talks on the phone as he prepares to walk into the event in Grinnell on Oct. 5, 2023. Moments later, a Grinnell College students accidentally backed into a campaign vehicle.
Ramaswamy’s talks on the phone as he prepares to walk into the event in Grinnell on Oct. 5, 2023. Moments later, a Grinnell College students accidentally backed into a campaign vehicle.
Levi Magill

2023 Iowa College Media Association award winner, Second Place – Best Print/Online News Reporting

Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign vehicle was parked illegally when it was hit in Grinnell, Iowa on Thursday, Oct. 5, according to Grinnell Police Chief Michael McClelland. Before authorities could assess the scene, campaign officials quickly relocated the vehicle without informing police of its original parking location.

Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate, was in Grinnell for the recording of a KCCI roundtable discussion with undecided Republican voters. Prior to the 1:00 p.m. event, a student backed into his campaign’s 17.5-foot Ford Expedition, which was parked in a no-parking zone designated by diagonal white stripes.

The failure to provide the police with a complete account of the now widely reported incident further complicates matters for Ramaswamy and his campaign. They have recently faced backlash for offering inconsistent narratives which starkly contrasts with the accounts of witnesses and law enforcement officers. 

A photo illustration depicts where Ramaswamy’s and Meagher’s vehicles were parked ahead of the accident. This Google Maps screenshot shows the scene, Broad Street, at an earlier time. (Screenshot of Google Maps)

“They’re not supposed to be parked there,” McClelland said in an exclusive interview with the S&B. “And I don’t believe they told Officer [Dalton Kies] they were parked there during the accident.” Kies was the officer who responded to the scene and completed the accident report. McClelland added that the campaign did not previously request—nor were they granted—special parking privileges. 

The Ramaswamy campaign has not shared any images depicting the vehicle’s position in relation to the line markings with the media or police. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment from the S&B regarding why they moved the vehicle before police arrived. 

Photographs taken by the S&B show that there were open parking spaces on the same street. Additional photographs show that the vehicle was also likely within five feet of a fire hydrant, in violation of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Grinnell, Iowa. Furthermore, according to section 321.361 of the Code of Iowa, no diagonally parked vehicle is allowed to extend into the roadway more than 16 feet when measured at right angles to the adjacent curb.

Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks with Grinnell College students following a televised panel with KCCI at Saints Rest Coffee House. (Owen Barbato)

Ramaswamy’s campaign alleged that the car crash was an act of protest and that the driver yelled and swore at Ramaswamy before “jumping into a vehicle, ramming a campaign car and speeding off,” according to the Associated Press

Ramaswamy sent out a fundraising email with details of the crash, asking supporters to donate and “stand for free speech.” The police report shared with the S&B estimates the damages at $600 per vehicle.

Celia Meagher `23.5, the student involved in the crash, made contact with the campaign vehicle while backing out of her parking spot to proceed northbound on Broad Street, according to the Thursday media release from the Grinnell Police Department (GPD). 

The S&B spoke with Meagher, who stated the incident was unintentional. She also denied being a protester and leaving the scene before speaking with officials. Meagher estimates that she was going less than four miles per hour when she hit the campaign vehicle.

“It was truly just an accident. We were completely unaffiliated with the protestors, ” said Nic Grofsorean `24, in response to the media characterization he says is inaccurate. Grofsorean was in the passenger seat at the time of the accident.

The GPD said in their statement that no evidence was found to substantiate the claims of the crash being intentional. McClelland confirmed that Meagher spoke with police before leaving. Fox News reported this incident as a “hit-and-run.”

A photo illustration depicts where Ramaswamy’s and Meagher’s vehicles were parked ahead of the accident. This image shows Meagher’s vehicle pulling into the parking spot on Broad Street at an earlier time. (Owen Barbato)

“It’s scary and overwhelming,” Meagher said, referring to what has transpired since the accident. “People were able to get my phone number so easily. I’ve been getting calls and texts all throughout the day.”

Daily Wire podcaster Michael Knowles offered his take on the incident, calling the driver a “punk” and saying that they should “rot in prison for years” for “political violence” that is “along the spectrum of assassination.”

Meagher said that the unfortunate part of the situation is that if she had bumped into any other illegally parked car, she would have been able to move on without any media attention or further complications. 

“I’ve been trying to avoid reading any media coverage,” Meagher said, referencing what she believes has been misleading coverage.

McClelland said that despite the location of Ramaswamy’s vehicle, Meagher was still at fault for the accident. Meagher said that she has already paid her fine.

This is a developing story.

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  • B

    Barry brewerOct 7, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    This is so silly it just a car accident no more than any other

  • B

    Barry ZuckerkornOct 7, 2023 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you for providing visual evidence that Meagher either acted intentionally or is an abysmal driver. Either way, her license should be suspended, at a minimum.

    • D

      David LymanOct 7, 2023 at 10:45 pm

      Suspending your license for a fender bender are you nuts you should be suspended for something because you’re nuts