Two black Milwaukee pastors were on their way home from fishing when they blew a flat tire on their boat trailer, and they were relieved when a sheriff’s deputy pulled over.
John Patterson had called his insurance company for help that morning in May, and he said a tow truck was on its way with a spare tire when the Waukesha County patrol car pulled up behind his stranded Chevy Silverado, reported the Journal-Sentinel.
“We thought maybe he was going to put out some cones or something,” Patterson said.
Deputy Erik Michalsen asked Patterson and Demetrius Williams if they had called for a squad car, but they told him the insurance company was sending help.
That’s when Michaelsen asked the two men whether they had any drugs or weapons in the truck, and they insisted they did not and explained they were Baptist ministers.
The deputy then asked for both of their driver’s license, which he explained was standard procedure, and returned them 10 minutes later.
Michalsen placed an orange sticker on the boat indicating when he had encountered the stranded vehicle, and then drove off.
“We’re pastors, driving home from fishing, and yet we’re treated with suspicion when we should have been offered assistance,” Williams said.
The pastors believe they were profiled because of their race.
“We were just stranded,” Patterson said. “(We) got background checked and treated like criminals because we’re African-American men. We drove home feeling violated.”
The faith-based community activist group Common Ground announced its own investigation of possible racial profiling by the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, and they have asked other drivers to share their experiences.
Sheriff Eric Severson has not yet agreed to meet with the group, which asked to for a meeting in early May, but earlier this month a department captain responded to written questions about the incident.
The captain said Michalsen asks all drivers he approaches about guns, and the sheriff issued a statement saying the pastors’ complaints were investigated.
Severson said the department found no evidence of racial bias in the deputy’s actions.