Chief welcomes family to view officer's body cam in viral arrest
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) — The Chesterfield County Police Chief said he would allow Elkanah Odembo and his family to view police body camera video from a tense encounter with a police officer Tuesday afternoon that resulted in Odembo getting tased and arrested inside his father's Chesterfield home.
A video showing a portion of the encounter, in which the officer grabs Odembo and tries to pull him out of his car, has been viewed more than 3 million times in less than one day.
That viral video, captured by Odembo's girlfriend, Elizabeth Smith, who was a passenger in the car, shows a minute and half of the incident. The full body camera video is four minutes long. It shows from when the officer first speaks with Odembo, who had pulled into his father's driveway before the encounter, and ends when the officer chases Odembo to the back of his father's house on Hollow Wood Court.
Police said the traffic stop was initiated because Odembo's car had a broken taillight. Odembo pulled into the driveway at his father's home, where the encounter happened.
Chesterfield police have not released the body camera video to the public, but allowed members of the media to view it. The beginning of the encounter seems like a normal traffic stop, and everyone involved remains calm. When the officer tells Odembo he is writing him a ticket for the broken taillight, the 19-year old challenges the officer, saying he is in his father's driveway.
From this point in the body camera video, the situation becomes tense and escalates quickly. The officer asks Odembo to step out the car, and Odembo refuses multiple times. Shortly thereafter, the officers reaches into Odembo's vehicle and grabs him. The now viral video begins shortly after that.
After the tense exchange captured on the viral video, the body camera footage shows Odembo getting out of his car, he and the officer push each other, and Odembo then runs around the house and toward the backdoor. The body camera video ends as the officer and Odembo approach the backyard.
Police said Odembo and the officer were in an altercation inside the home, and Odembo was tased before being taken into custody.
Col. Jeffery Katz, chief of police for Chesterfield County, said he would allow Odembo and his family to watch the body camera footage and speak with him in person about the situation.
Katz said he believes his officer did not violate department police because Odembo was being uncooperative.
“That traffic stop could have gone in a completely different direction, but he essentially chose the outcome of that traffic stop," Katz said. “I think everyone was damaged. I think the community was damaged, this young man was damaged and I think the officer was damaged. In fact, I know he was damaged because he was hospitalized because of this incident."
Elizabeth Smith, Odembo's girlfriend who recorded the incident, said the Chesterfield officer escalated the situation by grabbing her boyfriend.
"I was about to get out of the car, and when I had my hand on the handle, and I see flashing lights behind us in the driveway," Smith said. "As I saw this was going to continue, the pulling and pushing between, I was like, 'Ok, I’m going to record.' This is weird; this is going on for too long."
Smith said she was scared, and she believes Odembo was too.
“In today’s America, as you can see, innocent black men and women are targeted every day," Smith said. "Elley was scared for his life... You should definitely comply with what the police officers are saying, but it was unreasonable. I don’t know why he had to physically try to remove him."
Odembo was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond Wednesday. The 19-year Manchester High School graduate is charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of justice with force, and defective equipment, according to police. Court records show Odembo was charged with eluding police in August 2017, but the charge was dismissed in February after he paid court costs.
Simon Odembo, Elkanah's father, said no matter how the altercation began he wants to hear from police about why a broken brake light led to an officer grabbing his son.
"I don’t know if he said something that ticked the officer off," Simon Odembo said in an interview outside of the Chesterfield Courthouse Wednesday. "It didn’t need to get there. It didn’t need to get to where the physicality is happening. Give [him] a ticket."
Odembo is due back in court in July.