A black driver feared for his life when a Mississippi police officer drew a gun and threatened to shoot him during a harrowing traffic stop.
Joshua Hibbler was admittedly driving his girlfriend’s Camaro convertible over the posted 30-mph speed limit Aug. 18 when Columbus officer Keith Dowd pulled him over, reported The Dispatch.
But he said Dowd, who is white, tried to trick him into confessing to being intoxicated and bombarded him with insults, and Hibbler believes the officer was trying to provoke him.
“He thought he was going to find something,” Hibbler told the newspaper. “He was constantly asking me the same questions over and over. He wanted me to talk back. He wanted me to be aggressive. He wanted me to step out of my character.”
Dowd accused the 20-year-old Hibbler of driving “like an idiot,” threatened to arrest him and impound the car, and ordered him to stick out his tongue for examination.
“You smoke weed, you still do — I can tell by the coloration of your tongue,” Dowd said, according to video recorded by his body camera.
The 48-year-old Dowd, who had been on the Columbus police department for just three weeks, then threatened to call a detective to scrape Hibbler’s tongue and charge him with marijuana possession.
Through it all Hibbler, who has an associate’s degree in physical therapy, lives with his mother and works at a grocery store, remained calm and compliant.
“I’m not trying to have a bad day, I’m not trying to be a bad person to you, sir,” Hibbler said. “This is my first time being in this situation.”
Dowd then attempted to trick the driver, even after dispatchers found Hibbard had no previous criminal record.
“Then say, ‘Yes, officer, I do smoke weed,” Dowd commanded, and Hibbler repeated the statement — which the officer then claimed gave him probable cause to search.
Hibbler then dropped his right hand from steering wheel, and pointed out an ashtray to the officer.
“Man, listen to me, next time you reach, it’s going to get ugly because you’re kind of appearing to me to be the twitchy type of person who has done something wrong or you got something — listen to me — so all this reaching and grabbing whatever, I guarantee you, before you think you can do something, I can empty a magazine into the car,” Dowd told him. “You understand that? Do you believe that?”
Hibbler said he was terrified, and he was also afraid to show his fear because he didn’t want to appear suspicious.
“I got to thinking about all those situations of police brutality, and I thought, ‘No, I don’t want to be another one of them,'” Hibbler said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened if I had said something.”
Dowd eventually let him go with a warning, and Hibbard’s uncle, a former city councilman, called the police chief to report the stop.
The officer was given a written reprimand but remained on duty until Monday, but Dowd was placed on paid administrative leave after the body camera video was released to the media.
The mayor issued a memo to the police chief, saying Dowd had engaged in similar behavior in two other traffic stops in his short time with the department.
“I also believe Officer Dowd is a threat to the citizens of this community and I want him off the streets now,” Mayor Robert Smith said in the memo.
Hibbler said he believes the officer was angry at him for being black, having dreadlocks and driving a $30,000 car, which Dowd pointed out during the stop.
“I guess he just saw a young black male, with the hair, driving a nice car, and then he named the price of the car,” Hibbler said. “Well, my mom has a BMW. What if I had been driving that? Some cops, when they look at blacks, they look at us like we’re just some type of animal or something, like we’re outrageous or about to snap or something. It’s just a stereotype.”
“It ain’t fair at all,” he added.