A South Carolina woman accused a Virginia police officer of racism during a traffic stop last month as she was traveling back to her home state. That video went viral and garnered widespread attention, according to WTVR-TV.
Now the officer’s body camera footage has been released — and it tells a much different story.
What happened with the woman?
Dawn Hilton-Williams was pulled over in rural Brunswick County on April 27 while traveling home to South Carolina after watching her daughter play in a tennis tournament.
Following the traffic stop, she posted a nearly 12-minute video to Facebook describing the traffic stop. She claimed she was “bullied by a racist cop, who threatened to pull me out of the car.” She claimed the officer stopped her for driving 65 mph in a 70-mph zone, a “small difference,” she said.
She admitted she refused to sign her ticket, a court summons that in reality was not an admission of guilt, just an agreement to either show up in court or pay the ticket. She said the officer threatened to “pull” her out of her car, arrest her and impound her vehicle if she did not sign the summons — so she signed it.
She then shows her viewers she is in a rural area. She said: “This is where we got lynched. This is where we got lynched, even in today’s day…I was literally afraid.”
“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 if you’re a woman,” Hilton-Williams claimed.
She added she was only “polite,” but the officer was determined to engage in “sick bullying.” She said African-Americans have similar experiences “every single day.”
According to WTVR, Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts soon became aware of the incident after his department received dozens of phone calls from “concerned citizens.” However, after reviewing the bodycam footage from the officer who stopped Hilton-Williams, he said the traffic stop was done completely by the book.
“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 told WTVR. “This entire incident was recorded on a body camera and it’s all lies.”
What does the bodycam footage show?
The footage shows the officer cordially ask Hilton-Williams for her driver’s license and car registration. He informs her she was actually going 70 mph in a 55-mph zone. She immediately questions the officer, saying there were no signs indicating the speed limit because she had just left a convenenice store.
After the officer returned from his vehicle to give Hilton-William her traffic ticket, she began questioning him again about speed-limit signs. The officer tells her she is free to go back down the road to look for them because they are there.
“So you didn’t give me a warning? You gave me an actual ticket?” she asks.
“No warnings today ma’am,” the officer responds, to which Hilton-Williams replies with a resounding “wow.”
The officer informs Hilton-Williams of her option to either prepay the ticket to avoid court or to show up for a court date.
“I will not be paying this ticket,” she says.
Then the officer asks Hilton-Williams to sign the ticket. She informs him she will not sign it and will instead hire an attorney.
The officer responds:
“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 this car, I’m going to 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 then signs the summons, to which the officer replied: “See thank you. I knew you was gonna sign it. I appreciate it very much and you have a very safe day. Okay, thank you.”
How did Hilton-Williams respond to the bodycam footage?
She said she “remembered things differently,” according to WTVR.
“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 explained.
“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. 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,” she added.
Did Hilton-Williams file a complaint?
In her Facebook video, Hilton-Williams vowed to file a complaint with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department over the officer’s actions.
But she never did, Sheriff Roberts told WTVR.