Once again, an police officer’s version of events seems to differ wildly from the version of events reported by the person with whom he interacted. Yet this episode of he-said-she-said was captured on video. The supposed victim in this incident doesn’t appear to be the woman who was pulled over, either, as the body cam footage shows a rather routine traffic stop.
After Dawn Hilton-Williams was pulled over for driving 70mph in a 55mph zone, she took to Facebook to accuse the officer of racism and harassment. She told a harrowing story about her April 27 traffic stop in Brunswick County, Virginia. The video went viral.
“I just was threatened by this police officer… all of my African-American and people of color out there are going to know exactly what I’m talking about,” she said.
Hilton-Williams then said she was afraid for her life.
The Brunswick County Sheriffs Department received angry phone calls demanding action. They reviewed the records of the stop, and watched the footage from the officer’s body camera. What they saw looked nothing like the stop described in the video.
The officer was cordial. He was polite, to a point.
“The reason I am stopping you is because I caught you going 70 and the speed limit here is 55,” he said.
Hilton-Williams protested. She implied she wasn’t responsible, as there was no sign between the gas station she had just left and where she was pulled over.
The pair then discussed the traffic summons the officer handed her. Hilton-Williams became agitated and wouldn’t sign the summons. The officer explained to her what it was, and that it wasn’t an admission of guilt. Still, she refused. “I’m not going to sign that ticket,” she said, “but I appreciate it.”
“Ma’am… what you are signing here is a promise to either come to court or a promise to pre-pay. It is not an admission of guilt… It’s only a promise to me that you are going to get it taken care of,” the officer replies.
“If you refuse to sign the summons at this point, I’m going to have to get you out of this car and place you under arrest,” he adds.
“Yes, ma’am, you do not have a choice but to sign this summons.”
It is at this point that the officer says something that seems out of place with the rest of his actions. Even so, it is slight. “I knew you were going to sign it,” he said. “Thank you very much. I appreciate it very much. You have a very safe day.”
The “I knew you were going to sign it,” bit could be construed as menacing, but that is the only moment from this traffic stop that has any potential to be interpreted as anything out of the norm, and such a reading, considering the backlash the officer was receiving, seems to be a stretch.
“I did a lot of protesting, a lot of fighting in my day, so things like this wouldn’t happen,” Hilton-Williams said in her video.
“I was immediately afraid… and he looked like he was ready to pull me out of the car.”
“This is where we got lynched. This is where we got lynched, even in today’s day.”
“I wish society was different, I wish it wasn’t normalized. I wish that everybody’s traffic stop was the same so that people would just feel normal.”
Sheriff Brian Roberts, after hearing about the video, was compelled to release the footage from the stop. “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,” said Roberts.