‘No truth’ in HBCU president’s comments on bus stop
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A South Carolina sheriff said the president of the historically black university declaration accusing law enforcement officers of racial profiling in a recent bus stop was “simply false.”
Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University she wrote that she was “outraged” after law enforcement officers in Spartanburg County on October 5 stopped a contract bus that was transporting students from a historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina to a conference in Atlanta.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright emphasized in a Monday morning press conference that police officers stopped the unmarked “Greyhound-like” bus with tinted windows because it was on the wrong side. The stop happened as part of “Operation Rolling Thunder,” the department’s annual weeklong anti-drug campaign in which deputies and officers with agencies from around the state patrol the county’s highways.
Democratic members of the North Carolina congressional delegation last week asked the Department of Justice to investigate the incident.
Dillard wrote that the scene was reminiscent of the 1950s and 60s: “armed police, questioning of innocent black students, searches without probable cause, and bloodthirsty dogs.”
“This behavior targeting black students is unacceptable and will not be ignored or tolerated,” Dillard wrote. “If the students were white, I doubt this detention and search would have happened.”
Wright said a student helped the driver answer the officer’s questions and none of the students were asked to leave the bus. A leashed dog “ran through the luggage,” which is not illegal, according to Wright. Police body camera footage shows officers searching through several bags in the bus’ storage area. The driver received a warning.
“I want racism to die the ugly, cruel death it deserves,” Wright said. “If anything we do is ever racist, I want to know, I want to fix it and I don’t want to let it go again. But this case here has absolutely nothing to do with racism.”
Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said the officers “did nothing wrong” and could not know the races of the people on the bus when they pulled it over.
Mueller added that the leading cause of death in buses and commercial vehicles is driver fatigue. Interstate 85, the highway where officers stopped the bus, is a “deadly corridor,” according to Mueller.
“If my guys see a bus veer into their lane, and they don’t stop to check on that driver to make sure they’re not too sleepy, then we could have a busload of Shaw students involved in a tragic fatality of traffic,” Mueller said.
Body camera footage showed no Shaw University insignia on the contractor’s bus, which had the words “CHAUFFERED TRANSPORTATION” printed on its side. Shaw University’s Office of Communications did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The traffic stop comes after an April incident in Georgia, where Sheriff’s deputies pull over Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team bus and searched for drugs. Tony Allen, the president of the HBCU, said he was “incensed” and accused the law enforcement officers of intimidation and humiliation.
Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman, who is black, said in May that deputies found drugs on a different bus that same morning. The team’s charter bus was stopped for traveling in the left lane, a violation of Georgia law, according to Bowman, who said deputies searched the bus after a drug-sniffing dog “alerted ” beside. No one was arrested or charged and the driver received a warning.
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