April 09, 2019
Louisville Metro Police Department is catching heat from social media users and civil rights leaders after a video of officers handcuffing and humiliating a teenager for allegedly taking a wide turn last summer went viral.
Tae-Ahn Lea, an 18-year-old high school graduate with several college scholarships, was pulled over by the police last August, the Louisville Courier Journal reports.
Screenshot of Tae-Ahn Lea, the teenager who was pulled over and handcuffed indiscriminately by cops. | Photo: YouTube/LEX18 News
In bodycam footage that was posted on YouTube and now has nearly a million views, Lea, an African-American teen resident in Louisville, Kentucky can be seen politely answering the officers’ questions with both hands in plain sight on the steering wheel.
After one of the men, identified as Detective Kevin Crawford, told Lea that he had turned at the wrong lane, the teenager did not argue. He asked for permission to reach into his pocket for his drivers’ license, but instead of getting a ticket, Lea was pulled out of the car by the officer.
“Mama, they are taking me out of the vehicle,” the young man yelled to his mom, Tija Jackson, who had called earlier during the interaction. It was her car Lea borrowed to get a drink when he was stopped.
Crawford asked Lea repeatedly if he had any drugs or weapons on him, and even though the answer was negative each time, still went ahead to frisk Lea by the side of the road.
The cops later claimed that their police dog “alerted” them to contraband inside Lea’s car and even though he did not give permission for them to search his vehicle, the officers released the dog which sniffed throughout the car but found nothing.
They also ransacked the vehicle themselves and looked through Lea’s wallet, all while in open sight by the side of the road.
Screenshot of Tija Jackson, the teenager’s mom. | Photo: YouTube/LEX18 News
Jackson, a juvenile probation officer and private investigator, arrived at the scene sometime later, obviously angry and was told by another officer, Jeff McCauley, that they were just doing their jobs “to try to make the city a little safer.”
At some point during the over 20-minute encounter, Hellard asked Lea:
“Why do you have this negative view towards the police? What has ever happened in your life personally where you can give me a good explanation?”
The cops eventually issued a traffic citation against Lea but a judge dismissed it two months later after neither Crawford nor Hellard showed up in court to defend it. Jackson, meanwhile, told LEX18 News that they would be filing a suit soon.
Councilwoman Jessica Green has summoned the police chief Steve Conrad to answer questions about the disturbing incident and the department’s strategy for fighting violent crime in the area, USA Today reports.
According to her, Lea’s experience depicts how residents are "hunted down because of the color of their skin and where they live."
Other police experts mentioned that while there is nothing wrong with making traffic stops in high-crime areas, the officers were wrong to frisk and handcuff Lea
NAACP Louisville chapter president, Raoul Cunningham, further addressed the situation, saying:
"We support efforts to reduce violent crime, but what is the price citizens – primarily in west Louisville – must pay? How many stops have been made in other Louisville communities for an alleged illegal turn?"
Screenshot of a few user comments on the bodycam footage posted on YouTube. | Photo: YouTube/The Battousai
The controversial YouTube video also has over 18,000 comments of social media users calling out the officers in question.
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