A South Carolina woman who said being pulled over for speeding by a “white cop” was a “traumatic experience” is having her story questioned after police body camera footage from the incident showed a less intense series of events unfolding.
Dawn Hilton-Williams, in a Facebook Live video on April 27, accused a Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office sergeant of racism after she was ordered to sign a summons asking her to appear in court or pre-pay a traffic ticket. The officer said he clocked her going 70 mph in a stretch of rural Route 58 in Virginia that has a 55 mph limit.
“It doesn’t matter how polite you are, it’s all sick, crazy bullying and the police are ridiculous,” Hilton-Williams says in the 11-minute video, at times wiping tears from her face and speaking in a frightened tone.
But in video footage released Monday by the sheriff’s office, when confronted with the summons Hilton-Williams immediately starts asking the officer where are there signs that say the area has a 55 mph limit.
“You didn’t give me a warning, you gave me an actual ticket?” she asks the officer.
“Yeah, no warnings today ma’am,” he responds.
The exchange then gets testier as Hilton-Williams refuses to sign the summons.
“What you are signing here is a promise to come to court or a promise to pre-pay. It’s not an admission of guilt. It’s only a promise to me that you’re gonna get it taken care of by either coming to court or pre-paying it,” the officer is heard telling her.
“If you refuse to sign the summons, at this point, I’m going to have to get you outside of this car, I’m going to place under arrest and take you in front of a magistrate. I will get your vehicle towed and go from there.”
Hilton-Williams then interrupts the officer and says someone is on her phone.
“You do not have a choice but to sign this summons,” he says, brushing off the apparent distraction. “So once again you’re signing right there so thank you, I knew you were going to sign it. Thank you very much.”
After signing the paperwork, Hilton-Williams drove off and took to Facebook Live to blast the officer.
“I have had a traumatic experience and I want the people who are not African-American who know me to really get where we are coming from,” she says. “When I saw the police pull up behind me, the state trooper, I was immediately afraid."
“This is the area I’m in," she says, panning the camera around to show the rural roadway. “In the middle of, this kind of stuff. This is where I am, so it’s not like I’m not afraid, because this is where we got lynched."
She adds: “Do any of my white friends…feel like that when they get pulled over?...Are they afraid that they are never going to come home or see anybody else because police are at the door saying [I’m going] to pull you out of the car? Why do only African-Americans and people of color know what I’m going through right now?”
Hilton-Williams finally concludes that “when you’re African-American and you get pulled out of the car you get shot, or you get tased, or you get Sandra Bland, if you are a woman.”
The video was widely shared online, and Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts told WVTR that he looked into the matter after receiving dozens of calls from concerned residents.
"I don't know what she has been through and I don't know her life history, what I worry about is this kind of thing will inflame situations where you see cops in other states have been executed while they were just eating lunch," he said.
Roberts added he went over the footage of the incident and his officer did nothing wrong.
“This video here, there are things I could go over and critique the officer on, it's not racial things, it's not hate things. Certainly some etiquette or verbal judo that could be fixed and improved upon,” he told WTVR. “What's ultimately going to be accomplished, it's not going to make the ticket go away, it's not going to solve anything. It’s only causing more problems.”