On Oct. 5, a charter bus trip from Raleigh, N.C. to Atlanta was interrupted by a traffic stop and drug search.
18 students and two staff members from Shaw University were traveling to the Center for Financial Advancement Conference when police stopped the bus in Spartanburg County for a traffic violation.
Body cam footage released by the Spartanburg County and Cherokee County sheriff offices shows an officer telling the bus driver he was pulled over for “swerving” and “bumping the yellow lanes” while driving.
The officer then asked the bus driver to provide his license and registration before conducting a drug search of the storage compartment with a detection dog. The dog focused on a black bag that the officer then searched. The bag contained a box of donuts.
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No illegal substances were found.
On Monday, Shaw, North Carolina’s oldest historically black college, announced they were filing an official complaint with the U.S Department of Justice at a press conference.
“We are obligated and committed to stand up and speak up for those who are historically overlooked and underestimated – because the laws of this nation should protect them too,” said President of Shaw University Paulette Dillard at the press conference.
The official letter to the U.S. Department of Justice from Shaw University states that the traffic stop violated the passengers’ fourth amendment rights.
“Those passengers had a reasonable expectation of privacy for their personal luggage…yet the officers made no attempt to identify or locate the owners of any of the searched bags or to seek their consent before opening the bags and rifling through their personal belongings inside” said one part of the letter.
The letter then suggest the encounter was a drug stop “masquerading” as a traffic stop part of “Operation Rolling Thunder,” an annual interstate program to intercept and prevent movement of illegal possessions like drugs and various weapons.
In 2022, a Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office report showed officers stopped a total of 900 drivers during the effort.
Shaw is requesting the U.S Department of Justice conduct a formal investigation into the officer’s conduct and practices of the Spartanburg and Cherokee County offices.