Video footage of Milwaukee traffic stop has gone viral after it appears to show a sheriff’s deputy telling a driver that guns were drawn on him because he was “not white.”
Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies pulled over a driver they said was going 85 mph and blew through a stop sign late Sunday afternoon. TMJ4 reports that acting Milwaukee Sheriff Rick Schmidt said his deputies drew their guns because the 26-year-old driver and his 16-year-old passenger were not following commands.
The portion of the stop captured on a widely shared video shows the deputies standing next to their vehicle with guns drawn and aimed toward the driver, shielded by their car doors. The driver of the stopped vehicle has both arms hanging out of his window, hands in plain view of the deputies.
He asks the deputies, “Why you got your guns pointed at me though?”
A voice immediately responds, “Because you’re not white.”
The speaker is not shown in the video, and it is not readily apparent that a sheriff’s deputy made the remark.
Still, Schmidt called a press conference at 9 p.m. Sunday due to what he called “unrest being caused in Milwaukee” because of the video.
“There are multiple videos that came out as a result of a traffic stop that took place this afternoon at 3:15 p.m. today—this Sunday afternoon,” Schmidt said. “The suspects in the vehicle were African-American and were stopped in a predominantly African-American community. There are multiple videos that were taken during this particular traffic stop.”
Schmidt refers to the “not white” comment was “inappropriate” and “racially motivated.” He said it was not one of his deputies who said it. If it were, he said it would have gotten his “extreme disciplinary schedule” to take care of the issue.
“As the Sheriff of Milwaukee County, I will not tolerate any behavior from any of my deputies that is unprofessional or racially motivated.”
Schmidt said he personally spoke with every deputy involved in the incident and reviewed all available public videos as well as the video obtained from squad car dashboard cameras. He concluded that the racist comment was not made by one of his employees.
Schmidt then brought forward a black deputy, Deputy Boyd, who was one of three deputies present at the stop and who saw the person who made the “not white” comment. That person was not a sheriff’s deputy. Boyd did not speak on camera. Later in the conference, Schmidt said Boyd was standing to the rear of the sheriff’s vehicle, and when the comment was made, he looked to his side and saw the person who said it.
Schmidt said he wanted it known that when he heard the allegations of misconduct, “I personally called the head of the Black Panthers. That’s right, the sheriff called the head of the Black Panthers—with whom I have an excellent relationship. I pledged to him and to the entire community that if any misconduct was observed on the squad video or documented on citizen video that I would immediately suspend the officer involved and take harsh disciplinary action, and that stands as we speak at this moment.”
He said deputies were at a prior traffic stop looking for a different individual and were debriefing on that situation when they saw a red vehicle coming up going at a high rate of speed. The vehicle used the right distress lane to bypass traffic. They estimated the car was going 70 to 85 mph in a 35 mph zone, so the deputies got into their vehicles and went in pursuit. The red vehicle went through a red light and continued at a high speed even as deputies had their lights and sirens going. The driver then went through a red light. Once the driver eventually pulled over and stopped, deputies commanded the driver to turn the vehicle off, but the driver did not. The driver put his hands out of the window, but he did not put the car in park, and the deputies then determined it to be a high-risk traffic stop.
Schmidt said Milwaukee police showed up to provide assistance with a crowd of about 30 people who gathered to watch the stop.
Schmidt said the deputies drew their guns because the driver and passenger failed to follow the commands of the officers.
“They [the officers] had no idea if there were weapons involved, they had no idea what was coming after them—they had the total right to protect themselves and the community,” Schmidt said in defense of those in his command. “If they would have come out and started guns blasting, they were prepared to take action.”
Schmidt said that all of the videos would be made available to the public and reiterated that based on what has been seen on the videos, the comment was not made by one of his deputies.
The driver of the vehicle was eventually cited for unreasonable and imprudent speed, operating after a suspension (no valid license), operating an auto without insurance, failure to obey a traffic light and recklessly driving endangering safety. His father reportedly showed up on the scene and chewed him out in front of the deputies.