Delaware State University, a historically black university, says women’s lacrosse team was racially profiled during a Georgia traffic stop

The team’s bus was heading north on Interstate 95 in Liberty County after a Florida game on April 20 when it was stopped “under the pretense of a minor traffic violation,” said Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University. , in a statement. Liberty County is located on the coast of Georgia, south of Savannah.

Videos taken by players show that “law enforcement officers are trying to intimidate our student-athletes into confessing to possession of drugs and/or drug paraphernalia,” Allen added, noting that nothing illegal was discovered. .

Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said the bus was detained for violating a state law that requires a bus or coach to operate in the two right-most lanes unless the bus or coach is preparing to make a left turn or to or from a HOV lane, and the driver was eventually given a warning.

While one deputy manages the driver’s license, another lets a K-9 sniff the vehicle.

At one point in the video, the deputy managing the permit is heard asking another deputy, “Positive on the truck?” He then says, “There’s a bunch of stupid schoolgirls in the truck. Probably some weed.”

A few minutes later, officers are seen outside the bus putting on blue surgical gloves before starting the search.

The stop came as part of the “commercial prohibition detail,” Bowman, who is Black, said at a news conference Tuesday, adding that other commercial vehicles were stopped that day, including a bus where “contraband” was found.

“Before entering the coach, the sheriff’s deputy was unaware that this school was historically black or aware of the race of its occupants because of the height of the vehicle and the tinted windows,” Bowman said Tuesday.

“We were not aware that this stop was being received as racial profiling,” Bowman said. “While I do not believe racial profiling has occurred based on the information I currently have, I welcome feedback from our community on ways our law enforcement practices can be improved while preserving the law.”

The sheriff said on Tuesday that “no personal items on the bus or persons were searched”. In a statement Wednesday, he explained: “No players were searched and the K9 never entered the vehicle to search them. Only the front luggage compartment was checked. My comment about personal belongings not being searched related to the people on the bus and their items with them in the vehicle.”

Interaction was ‘traumatic’, says team member

Pamella Jenkins, head coach of the women’s lacrosse team at Delaware State, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that she felt “violated” for herself and her team when delegates brought up marijuana because she knows that “marijuana just isn’t something they should do.” participate” as Division I athletes.

“So to hear the police say that in that accusatory tone made me very upset and then helpless too, because there was no way I could protect them at the time,” Jenkins said.

Saniya Craft, a freshman lacrosse player, told CNN in an interview on Wednesday that she and her teammates kept calm because they knew they had nothing illegal.

“It was traumatic,” she said, “and we were surprised, but we really tried to stay calm and calm and tried not to question too much.”

“I just knew if we were a team of a different color – which is a shame to say – it wouldn’t have been presented that way, and I don’t even believe we would have been searched,” she said.

Sophomore lacrosse player Sydney Anderson wrote about the encounter in the Delaware State newspaper last week.

“Everyone was confused as to why they were looking through the luggage when there was no probable cause,” Anderson wrote.

“The team members were shocked when they saw the officers rummaging through their bags. They brought the K-9 dog outside to sniff their luggage. The police started throwing underwear and other female products in an attempt to dispense narcotics. locate it,” she says. said.

The officers spent 20 minutes checking the bags and said they did so “in the case of child trafficking or drugs,” Anderson said.

“At that point, I felt very inferior. I feel like we couldn’t have said or done anything to change their actions,” Anderson told CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday. “I do believe we were racially profiled.”

Video shows agents going through baggage

The nearly 22-minute body-camera video shows one of the officers telling the bus passengers, “Ladies, we’re not picking anyone. I’ll explain. This is our job. This is what we do. Every day we get off here and we stop commercial vehicles. Believe it or not, the majority of drugs and large amounts of money, child trafficking, human trafficking up and down these highways is what we’re looking for.”

“Today we’re not saying it’s even happening here, but this is how we’re launching an investigation,” he continued.

“If there’s anything in your luggage, we’ll probably find it,” the deputy said.

He then asked the passengers to tell him if they had anything questionable, explaining that any amount of marijuana is illegal in Georgia.

This is why everyday racial profiling is so dangerous

Deputies then watch them go through bags, searching makeup kits and other items inside.

Finally, a deputy gets back on the bus and tells the passengers that nothing illegal has been found.

‘Thanks, ladies. We’re leaving here. Enjoy the rest of your trip,’ he said.

Allen, the university’s president, called the incident a “humiliating process” and said the university is “examining the avenues of redress — legal and otherwise — available to our student-athletes, our coaches and the university.”

“We are not going to let this or any other incident like it pass us by. We are willing to go where the evidence takes us. We have video. We have allies. Perhaps more importantly, we have the courage of our beliefs,” he said in the statement.

CNN reached out to Delaware State University for comment after the press conference held by the Liberty County Sheriff.

Jamiel Lynch and Sharif Paget of CNN contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment