A Florida woman claimed she was mistreated by Tampa police after an officer drew his weapon and had it trained on her for over four minutes before she was handcuffed — and eventually released without charges.
But Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan insisted his officers did everything by the book during the incident that unfolded on Thursday when 23-year-old Joneshia Wilkerson, behind the wheel of a Nissan Altima, was pulled over.
The officer’s body camera footage of the incident was released by the Tampa Police Department.
A cell phone in Wilkerson’s car also captured the interaction.
The officer immediately drew a weapon, took cover behind his car door and told the driver and passenger to freeze and show their hands. He told Wilkerson that the Altima had been reported stolen.
Backup arrived in about five minutes before the officer holstered his weapon. Wilkerson and her passenger were then handcuffed and put in the back of a police car, footage showed.
The Altima had been reported stolen by Hertz rental car and Tampa police impounded the vehicle for the ongoing Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigation, both agencies said.
Wilkerson, a member of U.S. Army, had just returned from deployment and had borrowed the car from an acquaintance, the Tampa Police Department said in a statement.
"The driver and passenger were both cooperative," the statement said. "Upon completing the investigation, the driver and passenger were released and appeared to understand the explanation provided by the officers."
Wilkerson and her passenger were later released with no charges, and Wilkerson denies knowing anything about the history of the car or the investigation into it being stolen.
'The Tampa PD, they are bullies, and the way they treat people is bad'
“I want the public to know that I used to see things like this all the time on TV. I never expected someone like me would be put in this position,” Wilkerson, who is African American, told NBC News on Monday.
“I feel like something needs to happen to the Tampa PD officer who held that gun on me for four minutes. The Tampa PD, they are bullies, and the way they treat people is bad.”
Interactions between police and Black suspects have been under increasing scrutiny since the death of George Floyd. The deadly encounter in Minneapolis has sparked worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
Chief Dugan said suspects in stolen vehicle cases could be violent and his officer was right to pull his weapon.
"Stolen cars are quite often used ... to do a different type of crime whether you're going to rob someone, break into houses, it usually leads to more crime, other crimes," Dugan told reporters on Monday. "That's why we take such caution when it comes to stolen cars."
Former NYPD Sgt. Joe Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, viewed the body camera footage and praised both the officer and Wilkerson, saying they each acted appropriately.
"The cop remained cool and the passenger remained cool," Giacalone told NBC News. "I wish it always ended like this, nobody in the end being hurt."