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In an April Facebook Live video, Dawn Hilton-Williams accused a Brunswick County Sheriff's Office sergeant of racial profiling after he pulled her over for driving 15 mph over the speed limit in Virginia.
“It doesn’t matter how polite you are, it's all sick, crazy bullying and the police are ridiculous,” she lamented in her livestream while tears ran down her face.
“I have had a traumatic experience, and I want the people who are not African-American who know me to really get where we are coming from,” she continued. “When I saw the police pull up behind me, the state trooper, I was immediately afraid.”
Watch her video:
Hilton-Williams went on to say she was afraid because she was on a rural roadway where “we got lynched” and asked if any of her white friends had similar experiences:
“Do any of my white friends ... feel like that when they get pulled over? ... Are they afraid that they are never going to come home or see anybody else because police are at the door saying [I’m going] to pull you out of the car? Why do only African-Americans and people of color know what I'm going through right now?”
“When you're African-American and you get pulled out of the car, you get shot, or you get tased, or you get Sandra Bland, if you are a woman,” she said.
The sheriff's office, however, released body camera footage earlier this week — and it tells quite a different story than Hilton-Williams' tale. In it, Hilton-Williams immediately questions the officer about the speed limit signs and complains he didn't let her off with a warning.
“What you are signing here is a promise to either come to court or a promise to pre-pay,” the officer said, explaining her summons. "It's not an admission of guilt. It's only a promise to me that you're gonna get it taken care of by either coming to court or pre-paying it.
“If you refuse to sign the summons, at this point, I'm going to have to get you outside of this car. I'm going to place under arrest and take you in front of a magistrate,” he continued when she refused to sign it. “I will get your vehicle towed and go from there.”
Watch the police footage:
At that point, Hilton-Williams interrupted him to say someone was calling her phone.
“You do not have a choice but to sign this summons,” the officer said, brushing off the distraction. “So once again, you're signing right there, so thank you. I knew you were going to sign it. Thank you very much.”
After receiving calls from concerned residents, Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts took a look at the footage but concluded the officer did nothing wrong, telling WTVR-TV:
I don't know what she has been through and I don't know her life history. What I worry about is this kind of thing will inflame situations where you see cops in other states have been executed while they were just eating lunch. [...] This video here, there are things I could go over and critique the officer on, it's not racial things, it's not hate things. Certainly some etiquette or verbal judo that could be fixed and improved upon. What's ultimately going to be accomplished, it's not going to make the ticket go away, it's not going to solve anything. It’s only causing more problems.