Savannah, Ga. ( Associated Press) — The president of a historically black college has accused sheriff’s deputies in Georgia of intimidating and humiliating a school women’s lacrosse team after a deputy pulled over an athletes bus and discovered drugs.
Delaware State University President Tony Allen said he was “annoyed” by the traffic stop along Interstate 95 south of Savannah on April 20 as the team returned from a game in Florida. In a letter to students and faculty, Allen said nothing illegal was found and that campus officials were “exploring options for the commission – legal and otherwise.”
“We do not intend to pass off this or any other incident foolishly,” Allen said in the letter. Posted on the university’s social media page on Monday.
Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman, who is black, said Tuesday that his office is conducting a formal review of the traffic stop. He said the deputy stopped other commercial vehicles along I-95 that same morning and found the drugs in a different bus. He said the team’s chartered bus was stopped because it was traveling in the left lane, a violation of Georgia law.
The sheriff said the deputy decided to search the team bus when a drug-sniffing dog was “alert” with him.
“I do not use racial profiling, allow racial profiling, or encourage racial profiling,” Bowman told reporters. The sheriff said that based on what he already knew, “I believe the stop was legal.”
No one was arrested or charged. The sheriff said the bus driver had been warned.
Video A post online by one of the Delaware State lacrosse players shows two white deputies on the bus. One of them tells bus passengers that it is illegal to possess marijuana in Georgia.
“If you all have something in your luggage, we’re probably going to find it, right,” says the deputy. “I’m not looking for marijuana in the slightest, but I’m pretty sure you guys’ patrons will probably be disappointed in you if we find one.”
The deputy continues: “You guys are on the lacrosse team, aren’t you? If there’s something out there that’s suspicious, please let me know now. Because if we find it, guess what? We won’t be able to help you.” “
Sydney Anderson, the student who posted the video, wrote in the campus publication The Hornet Newspaper Members of that team felt that there was “underlying racism” behind the finding.
“Team members were in shock, as they watched officers rummage through their bags,” Anderson wrote. “They brought the K-9 dog outside to sniff their stuff. Police began tossing underwear and other feminine products in an effort to trace the narcotics.
Georgia courts have held that the smell of marijuana is enough to give police probable cause to search vehicles without a warrant.
The sheriff said he welcomed the response from the lacrosse team.
“We realize that in this current environment, even a traffic stop can be dangerous for civilians,” Bowman said, especially African Americans.