Delaware State University, a historically black college, says the women’s lacrosse team was racially profiled during traffic stops in Georgia

Delaware State University, a historically black college, says the women’s lacrosse team was racially profiled during traffic stops in Georgia

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

Video taken by players shows “law enforcement officials attempting 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 stopped for violating a state law that requires a bus or tour bus to travel in the two rightmost lanes unless the bus or Coach prepares to make a left turn or enters or exits an HOV lane and the driver was eventually cautioned.

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

At one point in the video, the deputy holding the license can be heard asking another deputy, “Positive on the truck?” Then he says, “There’s a bunch of f***ing schoolgirls on the truck. Probably some weed.”

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

The stop came as part of the department’s “commercial interdiction detail,” Bowman, who is black, told a news conference on Tuesday, adding that other commercial vehicles were stopped that day, including a bus where “contraband” was found.

“Prior to boarding the coach, the deputy was not aware that this school was historically black, or aware of the race of the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and the tinted windows,” Bowman said Tuesday.

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

The sheriff said Tuesday that “no personal items on the bus or people were searched.” In a statement on Wednesday, he explained: “No players were searched and the K9s never entered the vehicle to search them. Only the front luggage compartment was checked. My comment that personal effects were not searched was in relation to the people on the bus and their belongings with them in the vehicle.”

The interaction was “traumatic,” says one team member

Pamella Jenkins, head coach of the Delaware State women’s lacrosse team, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that she felt “hurt” for herself and her team when the lawmakers brought up marijuana because she knew that “marijuana just isn’t something they participate in as a division.” I athlete.

“Well, hearing the police say that in that accusatory tone made me very upset and then helpless because there was no way to protect them at that moment,” Jenkins said.

Saniya Craft, a novice lacrosse player, told CNN in an interview Wednesday that she and her teammates stayed 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 not question too much.”

“I just knew if we were a different colored team – which is sad – it wouldn’t have been presented that way and I don’t even think we would have been searched,” she said.

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

“Everyone was confused as to why they were searching the luggage, although there was no probable reason,” Anderson wrote.

“Team members were shocked to see officers search their bags. They brought out the K-9 dog to sniff out their luggage. The cops started throwing underwear and other female products to find narcotics,” she said.

MPs spent 20 minutes checking bags and said they would do so “in case of child trafficking or drugs,” Anderson said.

“I felt very inferior at the moment. I feel like there was nothing we could have said or done to change her actions,” Anderson told CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday. “I think we were racially profiled.”

Video shows MPs going through luggage

The nearly 22-minute body camera video shows one of the MPs telling bus passengers: “Ladies, we are not singled out. I will explain. That is our task. That’s what we do here and we stop commercial vehicles. Believe it or not, the majority of drugs and large amounts of money, child trafficking, trafficking of everything up and down these freeways is what we’re looking for.

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

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

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

This is why everyday racial profiling is so dangerous

MPs are then seen going through bags and going through makeup kits and other items inside.

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

“Ladies, thank you. We’re going to get out of here. You guys enjoy the rest of your trip,” he said.

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

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

CNN reached out to Delaware State University for comment following the Liberty County Sheriff’s press briefing.

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.

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