A South Carolina woman named Dawn Hilton-Williams posted a video to Facebook Live on April 27 in which she accuses a Virginia cop who pulled her over for a speeding violation of being a "racist." In the tearful rant, which soon went viral, Hilton-Williams describes the interaction as a lynching and invokes the name of Sandra Bland, a black woman who killed herself in her jail cell after a traffic stop.
"I was just bullied by a racist cop," claims Hilton-Williams in the 11-minute video. "This is where we got lynched. This is where we got lynched, even in today's day."
She continues: "I mean pulling you out of a car doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you are African-American and you get pulled out of the car you get shot or you get tased, or you get Sandra Bland-ed. ... I said 'I’m not putting my signature on that ticket.' He said 'if you don't sign this ticket, then I'm going to pull you out of the car and I'll arrest you, and I'll impound the car.'"
After the video was posted, many concerned citizens called the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office with questions and outrage. This prompted the sheriff's office to release the full video of the traffic stop, which paints a very different picture than what Hilton-Williams' describes. Contrary to the woman's claim, the deputy never threatened to "pull" her out of her car when she refused to sign the summons and there are no references or innuendos to race or racial antipathy.
"I started getting calls from citizens asking what is going on," explained Sheriff Brian Roberts. "They had seen a posting and were concerned about how I would allow it to happen."
Upon reviewing the footage, though, Roberts said he concluded that the stop was routine and his deputy did nothing wrong. He noted that such accusations of unfounded racism are what fan the flames of cop-hatred, which in the past has resulted in the execution of innocent officers eating lunch in their cruisers.
"I don't know what she has been through and I don't know her life history, what I worry about is this kind of thing will inflame situations where you see cops in other states have been executed while they were just eating lunch," he explained. "We've had dash cams for 10 years and body cams on our persons for about three or four. It's to protect the public and our agency. This is a fine example. This entire incident was recorded on a body camera and it's all lies."
After the video was released, Hilton-Williams said she had a different recollection of the interaction. "Get or pull. All he had to do was say step out of the car ma’am. I felt that it was threatening and I didn't feel safe because he's got the gun and he's got the badge," she said.
"I wish society was different, I wish it wasn't normalized. I wish that everybody's traffic stop was the same so that people would just feel normal," Hilton-Williams continued. "I certainly did feel Sandra Bland. I saw that and felt it ... like that was about to happen to me. Like, what do I need to do and that I was scared."
Sheriff Roberts responded, "This video here, there are things I could go over and critique the officer on, it's not racial things, it's not hate things. Certainly some etiquette or verbal judo that could be fixed and improved upon," he said. "What's ultimately going to be accomplished, it's not going to make the ticket go away, it's not going to solve anything. It’s only causing more problems."
Still, Hilton-Williams told CBS 6 that she intends to file a complaint against the deputy.
Here's the Facebook Live video from Hilton-Williams:
And here's the full body-cam footage (see partial transcript below):
Here's the partial transcript of the interaction between Hilton-Williams and the officer provided by CBS 6:
Deputy: Alright ma'am, what I have here for you is a traffic summons for Brunswick County General...
Hilton-Williams: It's a traffic summons.
Deputy: Yes, for Brunswick County General District traffic court. Your court date is going to be June the 6th at 10:30 for a 70 in a 55 mile per hour zone.
Hilton-Williams: Where is the sign that says it's 55 mile per hour?
Deputy: Numerous places.
Hilton-Williams: Numerous places where? I mean between the gas station I just came from and right here?
Deputy: I mean numerous numerous places back that way. You are more than welcome to go back there and look at them, take pictures of them or whatever you want to do.
Hilton-Williams: So you didn't give me a warning? You gave me an actual ticket?
Deputy: No warnings today ma'am.
Deputy: So your court date will be June the 6th at 10:30 for speeding 70 in a 55. You have the option to prepay this. I'm going to give you a phone number, plus a website that has our courthouse information. If you contact our courts they will tell you what the fine is, answer any one of your questions and if you decide to prepay it, you do not have to come to court.
Hilton-Williams: I will not be paying this ticket.
Deputy: If you don't want to prepay it, you'll have to come to court on June 6th at 10:30.
Hilton-Williams: I'll hire an attorney.
Deputy: I need you to sign right here.
Hilton-Williams: I'm not going to sign that ticket.
Deputy: Uhh ma'am, okay.
Hilton-Williams: I don't have to sign it.
Deputy: So ma'am.
Hilton-Williams: But I appreciate it.
Deputy: Hold on... So, what you are signing here is a promise to either come to court or promise to prepay. It is not an admission of guilt. It's only a promise to me that you're going to get it taken care of by either coming to court or prepaying it. If you refuse to sign the summons at this point, I'm gonna have to get you out of the side of the police car, place you under arrest and take you in front of a magistrate. I will get your vehicle towed and go from there. So, yes ma'am you do not have a choice...
Hilton-Williams: My cousin is on the phone.
Deputy: I don't care about that. I don't care who's on the phone. I'm talking to you right now. You do not have a choice but to sign summons. See thank you. I knew you was gonna sign it. I appreciate it very much and you have a safe day. Okay, thank you.