Video of a Friday traffic stop involving a black driver went viral on social media with all of the obligatory outrage to go along with such a clip.
However, police are now saying that the full context of the stop was not caught on video and have released details of the full interaction — details that were not caught on the video, nor were they shared by the driver or the passenger on social media.
What happened in the video?
Elizabeth Smith, identified by WWBT-TV as the passenger involved in Friday's incident in Chesterfield, Virginia, filmed in the encounter. The video was posted Tuesday to the Twitter account of Elkanah Odembo, who has been identified as the driver and Smith's boyfriend.
The video begins in Odembo's driveway with an officer attempting to get Odembo out of the car after pulling him over. Smith reported that law enforcement stopped the car for a brake light infraction.
Throughout the video, Odembo is uncooperative and refuses multiple times to get out of the car, saying that he just wants to go inside his house.
As the incident escalates, Odembo gets louder and more verbally combative and repeatedly threatens to sue the officer — who says that he is detaining Odembo at this point.
Throughout the video, Smith can be heard in the background continuously asking the officer why Odembo is being detained. She later can be heard urging Odembo to simply comply with the officer's demands that he exit the vehicle.
The situation finally erupts, and the officer forcibly pulls Odembo out of the vehicle.
Smith shared the video on Odembo's Twitter page, with the caption, "A cop follows us into my boyfriends [sic] driveway and claims it is because we have a brake light out."
"The cop calls backup immediately," the caption added. "[The cop] proceeds to viciously pull [Odembo] out of the car for absolutely no reason."
"I was forced to sit in the car until another cop came and detained me," the caption concluded.
A cop follows us into my boyfriends driveway and claims it is because we have a brake light out. The cop calls backup immediately. He proceeds to viciously pull him out of the car for absolutely no reason. I was forced to sit in the car until another cop came and detained me.. pic.twitter.com/g15FlSt6YB
— Shaka Zulu ⚡️ (@Elly_grande) May 22, 2018
Smith told WWBT that she was afraid for her boyfriend during the stop, which she called "scary and frightening."
"[The officer is] asking about the brake light, and next thing I know, he has his hand on Elly," she explained. "After it was continuing to happen, I thought, 'Okay, something bad is about to happen, and I need to record this.'"
Smith added, "Innocent black people are being targeted and killed every single day. How would you not be scared? We've seen so many stories time and time again, how many times does it have to happen?"
What are police saying now?
On Wednesday, Chesterfield County Police Col. Jeffrey S. Katz addressed the video and wrote, "Late last night, @conspiracyco tweeted about a traffic stop involving @CCPDVa. As most slept, that post went viral based upon the limited information provided."
"While an effective tweet, it falls short of telling the entire story," Katz cautioned. "Facts matter. Sincerely appreciate your empathy."
Late last night, @conspiracypro tweeted about a traffic stop involving @CCPDVa. As most slept, that post went viral… https://t.co/bWXyfZVSrY— Colonel Jeffrey S. Katz (@Colonel Jeffrey S. Katz)1527077385.0
The Chesterfield County Police Department released a statement Wednesday about the incident:
The officer attempted to stop a vehicle in the area Hollow Wood Court. The vehicle pulled into a driveway in the 3400 block of Hollow Wood Court. As the officer approached the vehicle, the driver had the car door open to exit the vehicle. The officer asked the driver for his identification. The officer told the driver he had been stopped because a tail light was out on the vehicle, and the officer had received information that the occupants of the vehicle had been gesturing and yelling things at a school bus.
The driver did not have his ID, and the officer began to take his information (name, date of birth, etc.). The driver said he didn’t see a problem and attempted to exit the vehicle, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The driver continued to not cooperate with the officer, so the officer told the driver he was being detained and asked him to step out of the vehicle. The driver then refused to exit the vehicle. The officer repeatedly directed the driver to exit the vehicle and attempted to remove the driver from the vehicle; the driver resisted.
At one point, a passenger in the vehicle exited the car and the officer ordered her back into the vehicle. The driver then exited the vehicle as he was being pulled by the officer; he pushed past the officer and fled around and then into the residence. The officer pursued the driver. The officer caught up to the driver and the two engaged in a physical altercation as the driver resisted being taken into custody. Other officers arrived on scene to help take the driver into custody, and the driver continued to resist, at one point reentering the residence.
The driver was tased and taken into custody. He continued to passively resist as officers escorted him from the house. The officer who conducted the traffic stop received non-life threatening injuries during the altercation and was taken to an area hospital.
The driver, identified as Elkanah A. Odembo Jr., 19, was arrested and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of justice with force and defective equipment.
According to WWBT, the department says that they are reviewing the officer's bodycam footage.
WWBT reported having seen the footage as well. According to the outlet, the four-and-a-half-minute video captures the interaction between Odembo and the arresting officer.
What's not caught in Smith's original video is Odembo fleeing from police after being pulled out of the car.
"We recognize there are going to be people who are fearful when we stop them," Katz told WWBT. "I would say the best thing to do is be cooperative — this traffic stop would have and could have gone a very different way."
He noted that it's important to understand all of the facts of an incident such as this before formulating opinions that might otherwise be damaging and dangerous.
"My hope is that people will realize strong feelings don't equate to strong facts," Katz explained. "It is not a good representation of the entirety of that encounter, and that's probably the downside of social media."
According to WWBT, Odembo was released on bond after his arrest and appeared in court on Wednesday.
He is scheduled to make another court appearance in July.