April 10, 2015
Virginia Beach, Va. — Virginia Beach Police say they’re investigating whether an officer’s use of force was excessive after a now-viral video surfaced of a traffic stop in which a teenager was pepper-sprayed, tased and police attempted to later delete the cellphone recording.
The traffic stop occurred on Jan. 10 and was recorded by Courtney Griffith, 18, who had been stopped for a traffic violation in the 1900 block of Darnell Drive, WTKR-TV reports. Her 17-year-old friend Brandon Wyne was sitting in the backseat and another passenger was in the car when they were pulled over for a broken license plate light, but the officer said he smelled marijuana and asked them to step out of the vehicle.
“Until my mother is here, no one is to touch me, understand?” Wyne can be heard saying to the officer.
“Well, you’re gonna get out of the car in just a second,” responds the officer.
“I will, but no one will touch me until my mother is here. I am 17 years old,” says Wyne.
“You have to comply,” Griffith tells Wyne, who can be seen from the cellphone she’s propped up on the dashboard. “Sir, how does a normal traffic stop go from ‘I smell marijuana’ when I don’t allow that kind of stuff into my car?”
The officer tells her he is “going to explain it,” and Griffith tells Wyne to “shut up” to hear the officer’s explanation. “Am I being detained?” she asks, and the officer responds, “Yes… for the smell of marijuana coming from your vehicle.”
The officers proceed to tell the teens that the vehicle smelled like marijuana and demand that the passengers step out of the vehicle. Four cop cars were on the scene at this point and Wyne, being a minor, repeatedly requests that his mother be present.
“They begin to pull people out of my car,” Griffith told WAVY-TV. “Before they even run my plates, they begin to pull people out of my car.”
“I’m 17 years old, stop!” cries out Wyne as he is pepper-sprayed. He states that he is calling his mother and repeats that he is only a minor as the officers threaten to tase him. After he is tased, Wyne tells the officer he’ll get out of the car, but before he can exit, he is stunned a second time.
“At this point, his hands are up and they are over his eyes. At this point, everything is fine with what the police have done,” Tim Anderson, Wyne’s attorney, told WAVY. “Tasing him was completely unnecessary. He was not a threat. His hands are up. He is clearly immobilized by the effects of the pepper spray, and they could have dragged him out.”
Griffith told WAVY she couldn’t watch the video anymore, and that is shows excessive use of force by law enforcement is not just “about race.”
“I can’t even watch it anymore … I can’t see him go through that,” Griffith said. “It’s not about race. It’s not about class. It could happen to anybody nowadays.”
At the conclusion of the four-minute video, a police officer can be seen appearing to shut off Griffith’s camera. Griffith says when she got her cellphone back from police the video had been deleted. But she was able to recover the video because it saved to a “recently deleted folder.”
“They arrested me, never Mirandized me or Brandon, and they sent me off with a summons. When I went back to my car, my phone had been brought off the dashboard and was on the driver’s seat. I asked the cops who deleted the video, after looking for it in my folder, and they all started laughing. It was sickening. I later found it in my recently deleted folder,” Griffith told The Free Thought Project.
Wyne is currently in juvenile detention, charged with assault and battery, obstruction of justice, and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Virginia Beach Police told WAVY that their investigators are reviewing the allegation that the officer took the phone and attempted to delete the video.
Griffith was given a ticket for having pot in her purse, but the charge was dismissed.
“If you have nothing to hide, why delete it? It doesn’t make any sense,” Griffith told WAVY.
The officer has been placed on administrative duty, pending the department’s investigation. The Virginia Beach Police Department released the following statement to WAVY Thursday:
“The Virginia Beach Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs is currently investigating a Use of Force incident that originated as a traffic stop on January 10, 2015 at approximately 9:00 p.m. in the 1900 block of Darnell Drive, Virginia Beach.
The Virginia Beach Police Department immediately began investigating this incident based on the officer’s self-reported Use of Force Report and video captured from the officer’s TASER camera submitted the night of the incident. The department was previously unaware of the citizens recorded video until today. The internal investigation was initiated based the processes and policies that serve as checks and balances when an officer uses force. It should be noted this investigation was self-initiated by the police department and was not as a result of a citizen complaint.
As a result of the traffic stop arrests have been made and narcotics were recovered.
The involved officer has been placed on administrative duty.”