A video has gone viral of a couple being arrested for obstruction during a traffic stop in which an Ohio police officer appears to give a series of conflicting stories as to the reason for the stop.
On Wednesday, Kathryn Said, 30, of Taylor, Mich., and Andre Stockett, 34, of Huron, Ohio, were driving with their 2-week-old baby when police pulled them over and asked for Said's license. She obliged, but something didn't feel right to Stockett, who flipped on his cellphone camera and started recording the incident, according to the Sandusky Register.
Police found that Said's information checked out, but instead of returning to her side of the vehicle, an officer approached Stockett's side.
That is where the situation took a turn.
According to the police report viewed by the Sandusky Register, Officer Christopher Denny said that he had seen Said pick up Stockett from an apartment complex and that he believed Stockett to be Jeremy Newell, a man wanted on felony warrants.
The cellphone video shows Denny asking for Stockett's ID and Stockett refusing, stating that he didn't need to show ID because he hadn't done anything wrong. The officer then asks him to step out of the car, a request that Stockett also refuses, indicating that Said was pulled over for a minor traffic violation.
Stockett asks the officer why they have been stopped, and several viewings of the video seem to provide several different answers. First the officer claims that Said was driving without her lights on, to which Stockett replies, "But it isn't even dark." The camera seems to clearly show the sun beaming behind the officer. The officer then again asks Stockett to step out of the car, and the following exchange can be heard:
Stockett: "No, for what?"
Denny: "Cause you look exactly like a person that has warrants, OK?"
Stockett: "But that's not me."
At this point the officer can be heard referring to Stockett as "Mr. Newell."
"I'm not Mr. Newell … I have done nothing wrong, you have no probable cause, I'm not coming outside the car, I'm scared for my life," Stockett says. "I haven't done anything wrong, I haven't broken the law … I don't have to get out the car, I don't have to tell you who I am."
"It's a lawful stop, understand that. You match the exact description," Denny can be heard on the video saying.
"It doesn't matter, I'm not him," Stockett replies.
Denny threatens Stockett with arrest for obstruction. Stockett replies, "Obstruction for what?"
Denny then has a canine unit run around the car to sniff for narcotics. Stockett can be heard on the tape saying that he doesn't have a right to do this, to which the officer replies that he can because of Said's nervousness and Stockett's refusal to show his license. The couple are upset by this, with Said heard saying that she isn't nervous at all.
The officer claims that the dog has a "hit" on the car and that he is going to need both of them to step out of the vehicle. Stockett then informs the officer that he has a 2-week-old baby in the backseat, to which the officer replies that the baby will be given to child protective services.
The video shows a visibly upset Said exiting the vehicle, with Stockett following shortly thereafter. The cellphone is dropped and the recording ends.
The Sandusky Register has spoken with the Sandusky Police Department about the incident, and authorities are supporting the officer and believe that his claim of probable cause checks out. They point out that during the call to run Said's license, Denny asks about the wanted man Jeremy Newell, saying that that proves the officer believed Stockett to be a person with warrants.
Sandusky Assistant Police Chief Phil Frost told the Register that the sun that appears to be seen in the video isn't the sun but is instead the flash from Stockett's camera. Frost also said that the officer had probable cause to have a police dog sniff around the car because Said seemed "nervous" and Stockett refused to produce a license—and that was enough to warrant a search.
Frost said that the officer's mention of child protective services was not a threat, but he did speak with his officers about this.
"I don't look at [the mention of children's services] as a threat; I would rather it not be taken as a threat," Frost told the newspaper. "Could that ultimately happen to someone being arrested? Yes … we do not want to displace a child from their mom or parent. They were counseled on their use of that last evening. I don't like the way it was used personally, and it was already addressed."
Both Stockett and Said were arrested and charged with obstruction. No drugs were found in the car. Stockett told the Register that he didn't know what was going to happen next, but he planned to fight the charge of obstruction.
"It was so unprofessional," Stockett said. "I tried to compose myself as long as I could … my girl takes the baby out of the car, and they search the car seat. I'm sitting in a police car, and I can't do nothing about that. He's 2 weeks old. I don't know where it goes from here."
Read more at the Sandusky Register.
Also on The Root: “Know Your Rights When Confronted by Police”