Chesterfield police chief says controversial traffic stop was ‘legal, lawful’

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A video of a man’s encounter with a Chesterfield County police officer during a traffic stop is going viral.

The 1-minute and 23-second video, posted to Twitter Tuesday night by the man’s girlfriend on his account, shows the heated encounter before the man appears to be pulled out of the car by the officer. 

“A cop follows us into my boyfriend’s driveway and claims it is because we have a brake light out,” the tweet read. “The cop calls backup immediately. He proceeds to viciously pull him out of the car for absolutely no reason. I was forced to sit in the car until another cop came and detained me.”

As of Wednesday morning, the video had been viewed over a million times.

The video begins with the man, who has been identified as 19-year-old Elkanah A. Odembo, asking his girlfriend multiple times to record the incident as the officer appears to tug at his arm. 

The man states multiple times that he’s at his house and asked the officer why he’s being detained. 

“You got a brake light out,” the officer responded. “You’re not being cooperative.”

The girlfriend pleads multiple times to the officer that they are being cooperative before the man appears to be pulled out of his car by the officer, and the video abruptly ends. 

Chesterfield Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz took to Twitter Wednesday morning to respond to the post, saying it went viral without the entire story. 

“Late last night, @conspiracypro tweeted about a traffic stop involving @CCPDVa,” Katz said. “As most slept, that post went viral based upon the limited information provided. While an effective tweet, it falls short of telling the entire story. Facts matter. Sincerely appreciate your empathy.”

Katz, who had an opportunity to view the officer’s body cam footage on Wednesday, said that footage won’t be released yet because it’s part of an ongoing police investigation.

But he insists that the officer involved followed protocol.

“The fact is it was a legal, lawful traffic stop,” Col. Jeffrey Katz told 8News. “And as the driver of a vehicle, the driver has a responsibility to cooperate with that stop, and the driver chose not to do that.

“The minute the driver chose not to cooperate, then the officer has a responsibility to gain control of that stop” — Chesterfield Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz

When the officer attempted to stop the vehicle for an equipment violation, the driver — Odembo — pulled into a driveway. The officer then approached the vehicle in the driveway to speak with Odembo, who police said was uncooperative with the officer.

Police said that after Odembo attempted to exit the vehicle and push past the officer, a scuffle quickly ensued between the two before the driver fled into the home. That’s when the officer called for backup.

Another scuffle took place inside the residence. Odembo was eventually tased by police and taken into custody.  

Many who saw the video on social media wondered why the officer used so much force with Odembo for a broken tail light.

Col. Katz said that is proper protocol for any type of traffic stop, and its the officer’s job to take control of the situation.

“You’ve got a vehicle with two people in it, you’ve got a driver who is non-compliant, a fairly decent size fellow who is non-compliant,” Col. Katz added. “It’s proper protocol you want to get additional people on scene , hopefully to dissuade someone from physical violence.”

Odembo has been charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of justice with force and defective equipment. 

The officer involved suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. 

Odembo’s father spoke with 8News about the incident.

“This incident did not need to go far,” said Simon Odembo, “if the officer just turned his light on, Mr. Odembo would have pulled over on the side, and he would have wrote him a ticket and he would have been home.”

Chesterfield Police contend that the video only shows part of the story. 

8News had a chance to view Chesterfield Police’s body cam footage of the traffic stop.

The video, which is four minutes, started out calm and things began to escalate when the officer explained why he stopped him and Odembo challenged the officer, according to the 8News member who saw the video. 

The video apparently cuts off as the officer chases Odembo to the back of the house. 

Find 8News on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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