Del. State Univ. lacrosse team alleges racial profiling after traffic stop turns into drug search

Monday, May 9, 2022
DOVER, Delaware (WPVI) -- It all started with a traffic stop.

On April 20, 2022, around 10:30 a.m., the Delaware State University women's lacrosse team began their long journey home when officers from the Liberty County Sheriff's Office pulled them over while driving through Georgia.

The officers allege the bus driver was incorrectly driving in the left lane and asked him to step off the bus.

"After that, they came on the bus and they told us they were going to be checking through our luggage," recalled sophomore lacrosse player Sydney Anderson. "They didn't ask us, they told us."

Anderson said the traffic stop started escalating.

"Two to six officers, then they brought their K9 and they started going through our stuff, sniffing our bags, going through our personal hygiene," said Anderson.

And at that point, another player started filming when officers asked players to admit if there were drugs on board.

"If there is something there that is questionable, please tell me now," said one of the officers in the video. "Because if we find it, guess what? We're not going to be able to help you. In the state of Georgia, marijuana is still illegal."

Head coach Pamella Jenkins said almost everyone on board was African American and called the incident racial profiling.

"I definitely felt it by the accusatory tone of the police officer. And while talking about narcotics, he went straight to marijuana," said Jenkins.

In response to these allegations, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said he conducted an internal affairs investigation. He said his officers did everything by the book and also shared bodycam footage of the incident.

In the video, officers explain that while the bus was initially pulled over for a traffic stop, the officers had a right to bring out their K9s and conduct a clear air sniff, which alerted them to the luggage. Thus, prompting their search.

In an email, a representative from the sheriff's office clarified by saying, "This alert does not indicate there are drugs on the bus, just that the odor is present."

The officers did not find anything during the search.

"If we got pulled over for a traffic violation, there's no correlation between them checking our personal luggage and violation of traffic. So it made no sense so there was a clear indication of racism there," said Anderson.

Delaware State University President Dr. Tony Allen said in a statement, "Our student-athletes, coaches, and the subcontracted bus driver are all safe. I have spoken with many of them, and in the course of investigating this incident in conjunction with our General Counsel and Athletic Director, I have also reached out to Delaware's Governor, Congressional delegation, Attorney General, and Black Caucus. They, like me, are incensed. We have also 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."
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