Ga. sheriff: Deputies' actions on video of DSU bus stop correct

Passengers say traffic violation resulted in luggage search last month

By Craig Anderson
Posted 5/10/22

DOVER — At first glance, deputies seemingly handled the April 20 stop of a charter bus transporting the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team in Liberty County, Georgia, properly, Sheriff William Bowman said Tuesday.

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Ga. sheriff: Deputies' actions on video of DSU bus stop correct

Passengers say traffic violation resulted in luggage search last month

Posted

DOVER — At first glance, deputies seemingly handled the April 20 stop of a charter bus transporting the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team in Liberty County, Georgia, properly, Sheriff William Bowman said Tuesday.

Sheriff Bowman said he watched a widely circulated video of the incident and is comfortable with the actions of his deputies. He added that an internal affairs investigation is ongoing, but that he expected it to be fair and comprehensive.

The sheriff called the current narrative of the incident “one-sided,” noting that, since the whole story isn’t yet available, no immediate judgment should be made. He said opinions about the situation may have already been formed because “that’s the way it is here in America right now.”

On Tuesday, DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes said the school has been in contact with the sheriff's office. DSU is investigating the matter, he said, and its findings will dictate what the school's next steps might be.

During the traffic stop, 78 seconds of which was captured on video by a team member and posted on YouTube on May 4, policemen were seen on the bus explaining that the passengers’ luggage would be searched. A deputy focused on marijuana and said that possessing it is illegal in Georgia.

The team’s head coach, Pamella Jenkins, said Monday that it was her understanding the bus was initially stopped for traveling in the left lane of the road.

According to Coach Jenkins, nothing illegal was found during the search, and the bus driver was not charged with any traffic violation. She said the stop lasted approximately 30-45 minutes before it resumed its trip home to Dover.

Sheriff Bowman said the officers involved remain on regular duty. He added that he had not spoken with them, as the IA investigation is ongoing.

Deputies are expected to treat people they contact with courtesy, he said, and he saw nothing to indicate the ones handling the stopped bus acted otherwise.

The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office’s mission statement, posted on its website, “is to serve the citizens through dedication, professionalism, and cooperation in order to preserve the peace, maintain order and protect life by using proven law enforcement standards that respect individual dignity and rights.”

The bus was carrying 25 student-athletes, two coaches and an athletic trainer, Mr. Holmes said. The Hornets were headed home following a three-game road trip to Georgia and Florida.

Coach Jenkins said that speaking about the incident makes it “tough to relive.”

“I would say the video triggers me the most, especially seeing that there were six heavily armed police officers that were there. You know, on a bus with a predominately Black team. That’s pretty intimidating.”

The incident in Georgia drew a swift rebuke from DSU president Dr. Tony Allen on Monday, who said in a letter to the university community, “We have ... reached out to Georgia Law Enforcement and are exploring options for recourse — legal and otherwise — available to our student-athletes, our coaches, and the University.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney expressed his dismay about the incident through a statement, as well, plus Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, all D-Del., issued a joint release. The state’s attorney general, Kathy Jennings, spoke out Monday, too.

Additionally, Delaware Legislative Black Caucus chair Rep. Kendra Johnson, D-Bear, said in a statement that she was “disappointed, frustrated, hurt, and angry” about the incident, “but I’m not surprised.”

“It’s an unfortunate reality that Black and Brown people in this country face a higher level of scrutiny from some law enforcement.”