The Delaware State University president says the evidence is clear and convincing that both stopping and searching his student-athletes returning home from their final season game were infringements of their rights.
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“If there’s anything in your baggage, maybe we’ll find it, okay,” an officer says in a video of the incident.
During an 11-hour drive home from their last game, the charter bus for the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team stopped.
“It felt almost like an out of body experience. Like did this just happen?” said coach Pamela Jenkins.
A student captured cell phone footage of an entire drug search that included K9s. It all started with a traffic stop for a minor infraction.
“At first, I was upset because I know these young women, they are mathematical researchers. I was upset to be accused of something like this,” Jenkins said.
Delaware State University has filed a formal complaint with the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, alleging police misconduct.
Sheriff Bowman insists that personal items not be searched. “The video clearly shows officers searching for toiletries, searching clothes and opening the family’s graduation present,” said DSU President Dr. Tony Allen.
While the sheriff, who is Black, defends his deputies, Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings has requested a full review by the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights and the Georgia attorney general.
“We don’t want anyone else, or any other team, or anyone for a period of time, to feel as violated as we did,” Jenkins said.
The university has requested bodycam footage of all concerned representatives from the Mayor of Liberty County. The deadline expired on Thursday.
We will continue to follow this procedure and proceed with normal protocols. “We are laser focused on getting the footage from all the officers involved, so we will continue to strive to have that footage made available,” Dr. Allen said.
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Research sparked outrage in Philadelphia region and around the country.
Video taken by a lacrosse player on board shows Georgia vice mayors telling student-athletes to confess if they have drugs on board.
Twenty minutes later, every bag was searched, including those in the undercarriage.
Allen says Liberty County sheriffs were looking for contraband that wasn’t there.
Not only did they not find any drugs, but they left without giving the bus driver a tip after being accused of a traffic violation.
DSU is one of the oldest historically black universities in the country.
Students on board say all the deputies were white, and nearly everyone whose bags were searched were black.
The women’s lacrosse team says the accident was humiliating and they are grateful for all the support they received.
“It’s a very recurring social issue, and obviously we need to shine a light on every situation where it happens to someone,” said DSU lacrosse captain Joina Gentle. “So. I think we have proof of that and a lot of different people’s voices to talk about because it happened to the 29 of us on that bus, and so I think with the outpouring of support that we’ve been given, it has helped us shine a light on the situation more.”
Coach Jenkins says caring for the mental health of the students and coaches who were on the bus remains paramount.
The school offers counseling services to anyone who may need it.
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CBS3’s Alecia Reid contributed to this report.