JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local man and Navy veteran has filed a formal complaint with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, after he said he was racially profiled during a traffic stop in late November.
The traffic stop happened in the Brentwood area, and body camera video shows officers pulling him out of his car and handcuffing him. The driver, Braxton Smith, said his car was illegally searched without his permission and that he didn’t do anything wrong. After being questioned about several things, including drugs and guns, he walked away without a single ticket.
Smith told Action News Jax that the incident happened after he had left a nearby convenience store and was talking to someone there. Officers put their lights on, and in the video, they said Smith didn’t pull over for another 300 yards or so, accusing him of not obeying and fleeing.
Smith told the officers that he wanted to get to a well-lit and safe area.
“I didn’t want to pull over in the middle of the road. That’s dangerous for y’all. I wanted to pull into a well-lit area,” he said in the video.
When he stopped, officers told Smith to put his hands out the window. Smith did exactly that, holding up his license and registration.
While being taken out of the car, Smith didn’t resist.
“I’m chilling, what’s up? I’m chilling,” he said.
Smith was questioned if he had a medical marijuana card, to which he responded no.
Officers also asked if he smoked hemp, to which he responded, “What is that?”
When officers mentioned that he had not pulled over initially, Smith said, “I’m a Black man in America. I’m terrified of the police.”
An officer responded, “Okay, Mr. Black Man, I’m asking you a question.”
Smith said the officers illegally searched his car without his permission. The only thing they found was a holstered gun in the trunk, and Smith said he had bought it legally. Smith said that he knew his rights as a Navy veteran.
“You’re a task force, so you beat the streets up. You hope to find drugs and guns in all the wrong ways, but this wasn’t a first, second base, not a grand slam this time,” Smith said to Action News Jax.
“There was a lot of moving around in that car,” the officer said in the video.
“When?” Smith replied.
“When I had my lights on,” the officer said.
“I rolled the window down and put my driver license and registration out the window. That’s the s*** y’all are supposed to ask for when you pull me over, and y’all didn’t do none of that. Come on, I’m not posing a threat, I’m a law-abiding citizen,” Smith said.
“First of all, shut your mouth. Don’t get all f****** loud with me, that ain’t going to change nothing,” the officer said.
Officers claimed Smith could have pulled down the back seat and placed the gun in the trunk while they attempted to stop him.
“He could’ve easily reached over, pulled the seat down and put it where it is,” an officer said.
The officers continued to question him.
“Why do you keep a firearm in the trunk?,” an officer asked.
“What do you carry it for?,” another asked.
“If it’s in the trunk, how do you use it for protection if you can’t reach it?,” said another. “Did you put it back there whenever we were behind you?”
After the entire encounter, the officers said they were only going to issue him a ticket for his front windows being tinted too dark.
“My traffic program is messed up, so I can’t write a ticket right now. We have gunshots down the road I’m going to respond to, so those two reasons are getting you out of a ticket tonight,” an officer said.
Action News Jax law and safety expert, Dale Carson, a former police officer and FBI agent, said he understands the concerns from both the officers and Smith.
“They’re doing exactly as they’re trained to do, but it creates the constant conflict and aggravation between the community and law enforcement,” Carson said. “It’s clearly a misunderstanding on both sides, but it’s clear that this sort of policing, for tinted windows and minor offenses, creates hostility between minorities in our community, young men in our community and the law enforcement in our community.”
Smith told Action News Jax he wants to see change.
“This is what’s goes on in the Black community with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, so a change should be made,” he said. “This should be unfair. This is unfair. It shouldn’t have happened to me. It shouldn’t happen to nobody else.”
Smith said officers went too far.
“I didn’t do nothing wrong, and they just going to let me go. Like, why did y’all do this? This is clear racially profiling,” he told Action News Jax.
Toward the end of the traffic stop, an officer did tell Smith that he was concerned for his own safety at the time of the traffic stop.
When Action News Jax reached out to JSO about the incident, they said in part, “Our internal affairs unit has the complaint, and they are conducting an administrative review. As such, we are not at liberty to comment further about the incident at this time.”
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