Winterville Police Chief explains viral traffic stop, Myron Rouse calls for justice
WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Over the weekend, a live stream of a traffic stop made its rounds on social media. The video has more than 40 thousand views.
The man who recorded it is Greenville Realtor Myron Rouse. Rouse is Black and says he was racially profiled. The police chief says the small video clip doesn’t tell the whole story.
Rouse, 46, said he was stopped on September 11th around 9:30 p.m. on Highway 11, in Winterville, for having his bright lights on, and said he gave Officer William Blake Ellis his identification through a cracked window.
Rouse said, “And he said, ‘If you don’t put the window down, I’m going to arrest you.’ And I said, ‘For what?’ At that point, I started recording.” Rouse says he didn’t have his brights on. “And even if they were on, that’s an infraction. That’s a simple infraction. Give me the ticket. Let me be on my way," Rouse said.
Rouse says the officer claimed to see marijuana remnants, or shake, in his vehicle. Rouse is not facing drug charges. He was arrested for resisting a public officer. “And I don’t do drugs and you can’t ride with drugs in my vehicle. So, when he said something about shake, I knew right then. Oh, this is some B.S. here," said Rouse.
Winterville Police Chief Ryan Willhite says Rouse’s case has been turned over to the district attorney, and that he has seen the body camera footage. North Carolina law prevents body camera footage from being released to the public except by a judge. Rouse’s lawyer plans to request the footage.
Chief Willhite says from what he saw on the video, he believes his officer followed procedure. Willhite said, “You saw a small clip of that video. The outcome of that encounter is unfortunate. I think it had potential to go way better than that with some better communication."
Almost 500 people commented on Rouse’s video, bringing up the different issues that came up during the traffic stop; from bright lights, to drug paraphernalia, to resisting arrest.
Willhite said, “Officers will stop a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. And they will stumble across something a little more serious, whether that be drug charges, weapons charges... someone’s wanted either in this state or another state.” Willhite says some residents don’t understand what resisting arrest actually means.
“Repetitively asking you to do something that we have the legal right to do, and we just don’t get any compliance," Willhite said,
Back in 1977, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was reasonable for an officer to order the driver and any passengers out of a vehicle for their safety. And it is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Willhite also responds to the accusations of racial profiling. “There is no place for that in this organization. Any evidence of that, those people need to go," said Willhite.
Adding, he will be looking into complaints against Officer Ellis and reviewing his arrest demographics to see if there are any patterns. The chief said they’ve made strides already to diversify the department.
Rouse said he had higher expectations of Willhite’s officers, as the chief worked as a Basic Law Enforcement Training instructor. He says his arrest is only part of a much larger problem and Rouse calls for Willhite to step down.
“That’s what I want to hear from him: ‘I resign,’ because it’s time for a change in that office," Rouse said. Chief Willhite did not have a response to Rouse’s request.
Rouse said he’s thankful that the employees at the Pitt County Detention Center were courteous. He was released on a $1,000 bail the night he was arrested.
He plans to file a complaint with Winterville Police, and he is exploring his legal options. Rouse also said he’s overwhelmed with the amount of support he’s received.
Rouse received a citation for the high beams. His court date is set for October 15.
Watch the live stream here.
Here is a transcript of the video:
Officer: “Look, put your left hand on the steering wheel for me. And just don’t move it. Alright. Perfect.”
Officer: “Sir, stop— (unclear),”
Rouse: “I’m turning on the light, so you can’t say I’m reaching for nothing.”
Officer: “OK, just keep your hands right there. You’ll be just fine.”
Rouse: “So, I just got pulled on Highway 11, in Winterville, because this dude said I had my bright lights on. I don’t have any bright lights on at all—have not touched my bright light thing. So, he asked me for my licence. I gave him my license..."
Officer: “Alright, sir, at this point you are under arrest. I’m going to ask you one more time to step out of your car."
Rouse: “I gave him my license. I’m under arrest? I’m under arrest for what reason? Supervisor? Are you the supervisor?”
Officer: “He’s right here. Serg, he’s right here.”
Rouse: “Where’s the supervisor? I need the supervisor. He asked me for my license. I gave him my license like he asked. Now, he wants me to step out of the car. I said, ‘for what?’ How are you doing?"
Sergeant: “Sergeant (unclear), Winterville PD.”
Rouse: “He said I passed him with my bright lights on, which I have not touched my bright lights. He asked me...”
Officer: “ (unclear) ...that piece of paper... (unclear)... shake...”
Rouse: “What piece of paper? He asked me for my license. I gave him my license. He tells me to step out of the car. I said, ‘for what?’ He said I’m up under arrest because I didn’t step out of the car. I haven’t broken any laws. None. So, tell me, what’s going on?”
Sergeant: “He pulled you over, OK?”
Rouse: “He pulled me over for some bright lights that I don’t even have on.”
Sergeant: “That’s the law.”
Rouse: “I don’t have on bright lights. Look! I have not touched them.”
Sergeant: “Listen to me. Do not refuse. Do not resist.”
Rouse: “He asked me for my license and registration, and I gave him that. So, what’s the problem?”
Sergeant: “OK, and now, he’s asking you to step out of the car, and you didn’t step out of the car.”
Rouse: “For what? For what reason?”
Sergeant: “Because we can see the drug paraphernalia inside the car.”
Rouse: “What drug paraphernalia?”
Sergeant: “OK, there’s shake in the center console.”
Rouse: “Shake in what center console?”
Officer: “Look... look, you need to step out of the car, right now.”
Rouse: “Hello? Show me some shake. Show me some shake, sir.”
Sergeant: “Listen to me...”
Rouse: “I have never did a drug in my life. Show me some shake. Where’s some shake at? Where is the shake at?”
Officer: “Step out. Step out. Put your hands behind your back.”
Rouse: “Dude, you don’t have to be that rough.”
Officer: “Stop tensing up. Put your hands behind your back.”
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