Concord police sued following viral video of traffic stop
CONCORD, N.C. — A lawsuit has been filed against the Concord Police Department after video of an August traffic stop went viral online.
Oakhurst Legal Group Attorney Darlene Harris released a statement Tuesday saying she is representing Davion Pringle, Imani Grier, and Malissa Baxter concerning a “violent act of police misconduct” from Cabarrus County Sheriff Department and Concord Police Department on Aug. 27.
According to police, an officer tried to pull over a car driven by Pringle at around 10:50 p.m. just north of Stough Road on NC Highway 49. Harris claims Pringle was singled out and pulled over without justification, however police said the reason behind the traffic stop was because Pringle failed to display a license plate.
Police said the officer turned on his patrol car’s flashing blue lights and siren to get Pringle to pull over, but Pringle did not stop.
According to police, Pringle kept driving, changing lanes multiple times. Officers said he did not slow down or speed up but continued to drive southbound on Highway 49 at about 55 mph for three miles. Police said additional law enforcement officers from the Concord Police Department, Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, and NC State Highway Patrol were called to help the officer with stopping Pringle’s car.
During that time, Pringle passed by no less than four well-lit areas along Highway 49, police said.
Pringle eventually pulled over at a Shell gas station on NC Highway 49 in Harrisburg, according to police. Harris said Pringle pulled into the gas station to ensure a safe interaction in a well-lit area.
“Given the numerous examples of dangerous and hostile interactions between law enforcement and Black men, Mr. Pringle intended to ensure safe interactions with law enforcement in a place well lit,” Harris said.
At that point, police said the officer who initiated the stop and a Cabarrus County Sheriff’s deputy got out of their patrol cars and approached the driver’s side of the car. As they got closer, police said the officers reported seeing Pringle reaching around and under the driver’s seat, so the officers put their weapons in a “low ready” position, which the department said is customary during “ambiguous and potentially dangerous circumstances such as this, where it is unknown if an individual is reaching for a weapon.”
Harris said Pringle never posed a threat to officers and the officers had no reason to believe he was armed or dangerous. Pringle had no outstanding warrants for his arrest, according to Harris.
According to the department, Pringle’s actions and refusal to comply with multiple police directions -- he reportedly refused to pull over, refused to comply with verbal commands to show his hands, refused to roll down the driver’s side window, refused to unlock the driver’s side door, refused to open the door, and initially refused to step out of the vehicle -- dictated the response from the officer and deputy.
Police said because Pringle refused to show compliance with verbal commands to display his hands and refused to roll down his window, the deputy used an unknown object to to break the driver’s window. The officer then unlocked the driver’s door and opened it.
According to officers, Pringle eventually stepped out of the vehicle -- under his own power -- and was placed into custody without further incident.
Harris said video captured of the incident shows that Pringle was aggressively pulled out of the car, however the department claims that aside from the deputy breaking the window, no force was used at any point during the arrest.
Pringle was taken to the Cabarrus County Jail and was charged with resist delay obstruct and failure to stop for blue lights/siren, which are both misdemeanors. He was also given a warning for failing to display a registration plate and failing to carry vehicle insurance.
“Contrary to the assertion made by Oak Legal Group, PLLC, Mr. Pringle was not targeted or singled out. Mr. Pringle was operating a vehicle on a 4-lane divided state highway in violation of the law, and the officer was justified in pulling him over,” the department said in a statement.
According to police, Pringle had multiple opportunities to pull over to a safe, well-lit area and chose not to do so.
“Mr. Pringle’s actions of refusing to pull over, reaching around and under his seat, and refusing to obey lawful, straightforward, and easily understandable directions escalated the situation to an unreasonable and unsafe level. Mr. Pringle jeopardized his own safety, that of his passenger, and that of the numerous law enforcement officers who had to quickly respond to the area,” police said.
Police said contrary to Oak Legal Group’s allegation that there was no “later determination” to justify the stop, the Concord police officer knew the reason for the stop before he turned his blue lights on. According to the department, the officer had no way to know who was driving the vehicle, and certainly did not know the driver’s race or gender at the time the traffic stop was initiated.
According to police, the passenger in the car -- Imani Grier -- was handcuffed and briefly detained for two minutes for officer safety reasons during the stop, but according to Harris, Grier was handcuffed until Pringle was removed from the scene.
Harris also said Grier’s phone was confiscated so that she could not record the incident or contact family members, but police refute those claims. Officers said her phone was never taken and that she was on a phone call with Pringle’s mom, Baxter, from the time she got out of the car through the duration of the stop. Police said the officer helped Grier figure out their location so she could direct Baxter to the scene.
Grier was not charged or cited and police said no force was used against her.
Police said no one was injured during the traffic stop and Harris said she believes it’s due to the precautions Pringle took before pulling over.
“We are fortunate that this incident did not have a deadly outcome as we have seen in similar captured interactions,” Harris said. “This is likely due to Mr. Pringles’ safety precautions. If officers behaved this aggressively in a well-lit area with witnesses, how would they have reacted in an isolated and dimly lit area? We must hold the officers involved accountable for their actions. Mr. Pringle, Ms. Grier, and Ms. Baxter—victims of police—are trying their best to cope with the incident and continue to process the aftermath of this incident.”
Harris said Baxter “was severely damaged by the events that took place as she attempted to secure the release of her son from a violent and unlawful search and seizure.”
Following Pringle’s arrest, the Concord Police Department received a complaint from Baxter and Grier. Their complaints are actively under investigation. The Concord Police Department said it takes all allegations of employee misconduct seriously. All complaints are subject to a thorough and rigorous investigative process.
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