New body camera footage undercuts Georgia sheriff's defense of deputies' search of Black lacrosse team bus
Photo by Ash Gerlach on Unsplash

Body camera footage contradicts claims by a Georgia sheriff about his deputies' actions during a traffic stop involving a women's lacrosse team from historically Black university Delaware State.

Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman claimed "no personal items on the bus or person(s) were searched" during the April 20 stop, which deputies justified as a lane violation, but body cam footage obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal shows deputies rummaging through players' backpacks and bags, just as the women have been alleging.

“How do we go from being in the wrong lane to going through our bags?” asks one player as a deputy first walks on board the bus.

The deputy says a dog can be brought on board to search for narcotics while the deputy who pulled over the bus "is conducting his business."

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"This what we do," the deputy says, and then tells the women that law enforcement stops commercial vehicles because drugs, “large amounts of money” and children being trafficked might be on board.

Another deputy with a K-9 unit then gets on board the bus, and deputies said the dog alerted them to possible narcotics, which they said would allow them to search the bus and the team's belongings.

Bus driver Tim Jones, who is Black, told deputies he drove in the left lane to pass another vehicle, but the deputies said Georgia law prohibits vehicles with six wheels and air brakes from driving in that lane, although the statute specifically excludes buses and motorcoaches.

"Simply stopping a bus filled with African Americans and subjecting them to that (search) raises grave civil rights concerns," said Gerald Griggs, president of Georgia’s state NAACP chapter and a civil rights attorney. "The actual search of the baggage and running the dog all up on the bus, they’re going to need something (more) to do that, and I have some serious concerns about whether they did.”

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