Bus stop body camera footage contradicts sheriff

Body camera footage of Georgia deputies who stopped a Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team bus late last month directly contradicts Tuesday’s statements by the sheriff who defended the stoppage .

In a public address, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said “no personal items on the bus or person(s) were searched” during the April 20 stop. But body camera footage, which Delaware Online/The News Journal obtained and made public unedited, shows deputies rummaging through players’ backpacks and bags — something those on the bus have been saying for days.

Bowman also said the stop was not racial profiling because “prior to entering the coach, deputies were unaware that this school was historically black or aware of the race of the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and the tint of the windows”.

However, footage shows bus driver Tim Jones, who is black, exiting the bus to speak with the deputy who originally stopped the vehicle. He tells the deputy that the bus is a women’s lacrosse team returning to Delaware, but does not mention the school or that it is a historically black college and university.

The charter bus with large tinted windows had no exterior markings but had a Delaware license plate.

After the deputy boards the bus for the first time, a team member sitting behind coach Pamella Jenkins asks, “How do we get from the wrong lane to checking our bags. . . A deputy already on board tells him that a dog may be brought in for narcotics while the deputy who stopped the bus “does his business”.

Passengers are then told the reason for the stop, with the deputy saying, “That’s what we’re doing.” He then describes how their job is to stop commercial vehicles because drugs, “large sums of money” and trafficked children may be on board.

He then walks out and a few minutes later another deputy with a K-9 appears.

CONTEXT:Why activists in Delaware, Georgia aren’t surprised by the traffic stop involving the DSU lacrosse team

In addition to contradicting Bowman’s statements on Tuesday, the video also raises questions about the legality of the traffic stop.

Jones is informed by a deputy that he has been arrested for driving on the far left of the three lanes. Jones, who said he was passing another vehicle, responds by saying he saw signs saying trucks can’t drive in the left lane, but that doesn’t mention buses.

The deputy asks if the bus has air brakes – Jones said it does – and says any vehicle with six wheels and air brakes cannot travel in the left lane.

However, Georgia Code actually states that the term “truck” means “any vehicle equipped with more than six wheels, except buses and coaches”.

A few minutes later, other deputies arrive, one of whom has a K-9 with him. Deputies claimed that the K-9 alerted them to possible narcotics, which they say allowed them to search the bus and the items on it.

‘Traumatizing’:Delaware State lacrosse coach and player talk about finding buses in Georgia

Body camera footage shows officers opening and looking through players’ luggage, including a red sports bag that said “DELAWARE STATE LAX” on the side. Inside they find a gift bag which they take out, then extract a box wrapped in wrapping paper, which they examine closely. “Who is number 8?” a deputy asks, apparently seeing a number on the bag.

The deputy in charge then returns to the bus and says “Who is Miss Aiken?” apparently read a name on the packaging. Senior Aniya Aiken then walks to the front of the bus and the deputy asks, “What is that?”

She explains that her aunt gave it to her, she doesn’t know what’s inside and volunteers to open it on the spot. ” You do not know what it is ? he responds, later adding “You see that sounds a bit like ‘What’s going on?’ …That’s the kind of stuff we’re looking for.

He then walks to the back of the bus, opens the packaging to reveal a box with the words “Book Safe”. He pulls out what appears to be a plastic case that looks like a book and says “The New English Dictionary” on the front and comments that it hasn’t been opened.

Shortly after, the deputies talk to the driver and team again and they are allowed to leave.

Body camera footage shows Liberty County deputies boarding a bus carrying the Delaware State University women's lacrosse bus to Delaware late last month.

Gerald Griggs, president of the Georgia State NAACP Chapter and a prominent Atlanta-area lawyer and activist, told Delaware Online/The News Journal on Tuesday that while the original reason for the shutdown was valid, “it enough to stop a bus full of African Americans and submit to this (search) raises serious civil rights concerns.”

“The baggage search and the running of the dog on the bus, they’re going to need something (more) to do that,” he said. “And I have serious concerns about whether they did.”

DEFENCE LAWYER:DSU player’s father says bus search happened because team was mostly black

Under Georgia law, an officer who lawfully stops a car “may proceed to a criminal investigation as long as they can express reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is taking place”, according to a 2014 opinion issued by the Supreme Court. from Georgia.

However, without this reasonable suspicion, “extending an otherwise conducted traffic stop to conduct a strip search of a vehicle using a drugged dog violates the Fourth Amendment protection against search and seizure. abusive”.

Liberty County: What you need to know

Or: A coastal community off Interstate 95 about 35 miles southwest of Savannah

Population: 65,711

Percentage of population identifying as white: 46.9

Percentage of population identifying as black: 45

Median household income: $50,411

Percentage of population living in poverty: 14.7

Sources: United States Census Bureau and libertycounty.org

Delaware case law has retained the same standard. In a 2001 opinion, a Delaware Superior Court judge wrote that “Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, any detention of a vehicle or its occupants beyond what is necessary to achieving the purpose of stopping traffic must be supported by independent facts sufficient to justify the additional intrusion.”

It remains unclear what suspicions – if any – were articulated by the deputies to have used the K-9, which they then used to justify the search of the personal belongings of bus passengers.

Griggs and other activists said they were not surprised by the deputies’ actions.

In Georgia, Delaware, and across the country, there have been many similar incidents where “passengers and vehicles were stopped on the pretext of some type of traffic violation and then searched extended on the side of the road,” Griggs said.

Because of the frequency of this type of incident, he said there “needs to be serious law enforcement training here in Georgia” and elsewhere.

Body camera footage shows Liberty County deputies searching the belongings of the Delaware State University women's lacrosse team during a traffic stop late last month.

He added that the DSU shutdown “has raised serious concerns about the treatment to which these young women are subjected”.

Patrick Campanelli, a civil rights attorney in suburban Chicago and father of one of the lacrosse players on the bus, echoed Griggs.

“I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for a very long time and I knew exactly what the officer was doing,” Campanelli said Tuesday. “He was trying to force people to make statements.”

INITIAL STORY:State of Delaware, state leaders ‘furious’ after squad bus stopped, raid in Georgia

That included, said Campanelli, the deputy suggesting that dogs could detect certain smells.

“Would they do that if it was a Notre Dame bus?” said Campanelli. “Would a state trooper ever think of going on and trying to charge people without a clue of supporting evidence?”

Do you have any advice or story ideas? Send to Isabel Hughes at ihughes@delawareonline.com. For all the latest news, follow her on Twitter at @izzihughes_


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