A recent traffic stop by the Lycoming County Narcotics Enforcement Unit drew heavy criticism online when the mother of the individuals involved posted a scathing social media post detailing what she called a case of racial profiling.
The post, which has generated over 490 shares on Facebook, was written by Stavia Pearsall-Jefferson and claims that her two sons were followed and racially profiled by the officers. She also included two short video clips of the altercation.
“First and foremost this post is being created to bring awareness to other mothers of African American males to send a message that our sons are not safe,” Pearsall-Jefferson wrote.
District Attorney Ryan Gardner, who oversees the Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said the traffic stop was due to tinted windows. Officers then spotted a marijuana joint in plain view inside the vehicle, which gave them probable cause to search the vehicle, Gardner added.
Gardner also said he reviewed the full footage from dash cameras and body cameras worn by the officers but did not see any inappropriate behavior.
In Pearsall-Jefferson’s post, she said her 19-year-old son called her and said he and her younger son were being followed by Williamsport police officer Clint Gardner. She said she instructed her son to stop and park the vehicle and “return back to where we was to avoid any dealing with the officer who was trailing him.”
She went on to add that the officers began looking in the parked car and when her son explained that the vehicle was his and was registered and legal, she claimed he was thrown against the vehicle and arrested. Pearsall-Jefferson also alleged that other officers on the scene cursed at her and would not answer her questions.
“My youngest son, who I told to stay back when we first pulled up to the original arresting officer, walked up after hearing me screaming to the officer, ‘Please don’t hurt my son,’ …three officer(s) than(sic) attacked him throwing him on the car placing handcuffs on him,” she wrote.
The district attorney defended his officers, saying it’s important for them to be able to do their jobs and perform traffic stops without members of the public interfering and yelling at them.
Gardner said the two males “immediately began to verbally accost the officers,” using derogatory language.
“This did not have to happen. It escalated because of the disrespect that a lot of people continue to perform on law enforcement,” Gardner said.
The Narcotic Enforcement Unit is run by the Lycoming County District Attorney’s office and consists of full-time county detectives as well as specially appointed police officers from local departments including the Williamsport Bureau of Police.
Gardner said the unit is vital in uncovering the narcotic trade in the region. Small amounts of drugs can help lead officers to larger suppliers and uncover the broader drug trade. He added that it’s important for officers to be able to follow this process without members of the public being “quick to jump to conclusions.”
Narcotics officers often patrol in known drug trafficking areas, which, Gardner added, is what they were doing on Fourth and Memorial avenues when the traffic stop occurred.
Gardner said charges have not yet been formally filed against the two males who were in the car. One is a minor and the other an adult.
Pearsall-Jefferson said the car was impounded without probable cause. Garnder refuted this and said the car was parked on private property and that the joint inside gave them probable cause for a search.
The investigation is ongoing, Gardner said.
On the PULSE was unable to reach Pearsall-Jefferson for a direct comment. However, she finished her post by “asking for my followers to help me expose the Lycoming County N.E.U. officers who wrongfully profiled and arrested my children.”