CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County Police released new details about what happened before a traffic stop that caused a video to go viral on social media.
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.
Chesterfield County Police allowed 8News to view the officer’s body camera footage, but Col. Jeffery Katz said that footage won’t be released yet because it’s part of an ongoing police investigation.
“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.
Col. Katz insisted the officer involved followed protocol.
“There’s just an awful lot of unanswered questions,” said attorney Bill Shields, who weighed in on the video.
Elizabeth Caroon, the public information coordinator for Chesterfield County Police, said in a statement that a school bus driver near the intersection of Kim Drive and Sexton Drive “waived down the officer, who was traveling in the opposite direction.”
The driver told the officer “the occupants of a car behind him were yelling and waving at the bus. The officer made a U-turn to get behind the vehicle as the bus pulled away. Once behind the vehicle, the officer saw that the light was out,” Caroon said, in an email to 8News.
Caroon said this is protocol. “Our officers are expected to investigate reports of suspicious behavior, especially when they involve children and/or schools,” she explained in a statement.
Chesterfield County Police clarified to 8News that the officer tried to pull over the vehicle more than a place away from the driver’s home and the cruiser’s lights were on when this happened.
The police body camera video, shown to 8News, started when the officer approached the vehicle with the car door already open.
Later in the traffic stop, the driver of the car,19-year-old Elkanah Odembo, asked his girlfriend to start filming.
“It indicates that the driver thought something was going on that would be worthwhile to film,” attorney Bill Shields said. “So he must have thought that his rights were being abused in some sort of fashion.”
Shields says the way the officer handled the situation also raises some questions.
“It seemed to be pretty aggressive for the nature of the claimed stop. Usually, with a taillight, you get a warning or a ticket and that’s the end of it,” he said. “So, why things go on from there, that’s the open question.”
At one point, Odembo runs from the vehicle to the house. Then, both he and the officer get into a physical altercation. A taser was used and then Odembo was taken into custody.
“There should be some escalation of violence to justify a taser,” he said. “Usually if you catch him, you don’t use a taser at that point. Something triggered the use of that taser and we don’t know what.”
That’s because both the video taken by the passenger of the vehicle and the body camera footage stopped recording. However, Odembo is charged with assault on a law enforcement officer and several counts of obstruction of justice using force.
Chesterfield County Police said in a statement that “At this point, we have not determined why the officer’s camera stopped recording.”
Sheilds said there’s a lot of gray areas, still, with this case and urges people to focus on the facts before casting judgment on either side.
“We tend to sort of jump on one side or the other with these claims without looking at the facts. If you do that you’re wrong half of the time,” he said.