Almost a year after the shooting of an unarmed black man Walter Scott, another story of police brutality in South Carolina is making the news. In a disturbing video released by the Washington Post, Elijah Pontoon and Lakeya Hicks receive brutal and invasive treatment at the hands of several white police officers. As a result, they have filed a federal lawsuit for civil rights violations. Be advised, the content in the video below may be disturbing for some viewers. Discretion is encouraged.
The video begins with a fairly routine traffic stop in Aiken, South Carolina, to check the paper registration tags on Hick’s newly purchased car. The officer asks Hicks to exit the vehicle, and she complies. The officer then runs the car’s tags and the occupants’ identification, which both check out.
Instead of letting the couple go, he then orders Pontoon out of the car and handcuffs him. He calls for backup, which include two more officers and a canine unit. Mr. Pontoon’s queries of what is happening are repeatedly ignored. The canine unit’s search of the car produces no contraband.
The four officers then turn their attention to personally search the two occupants. According to the filed complaint, Hicks was physically searched by a female officer in public and in full view of the male officers. She also claims her breasts were exposed, although this does not appear in the video. Next, an officer searches Pontoon. After claiming to feel something between his legs, the officer dons a pair of exam gloves.
The actual anal search is not seen on camera, but the audible dialogue makes it very clear what is happening. At several times, Pontoon tells the officer that he is pushing against his hemorrhoids, and yet the officer persists with the search. All of this takes place in broad daylight. At no point did any of the officers find any illegal contraband, and both Hicks and Pontoon were eventually let go with a “warning.”
This case is only one of a rash of disturbing abuses of power of law enforcement. According to John Wesley Hall, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers:
“This is quite appalling, to say the least. I’ve encountered on the street strip searches of men in my own practice, but never of a woman on the street, and then this case has the added anal probing. Worse yet: There is no legal justification for anything, including the stop because criminal history alone isn’t reasonable suspicion. Everything starting with the stop was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and it just got progressively worse.”
Elijah Pontoon and Lakeya Hicks filed their federal lawsuit in late 2015. The case is still pending in federal court.
Watch the entire video below: