Teen in videotaped traffic stop: ‘I was stereotyped’

Published: Apr. 7, 2019 at 10:21 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The 18-year-old Louisville man whose videotaped traffic stop with police has gone viral spoke to WAVE 3 News about the incident on Friday.

The stop took place back in August, but the video (watch below) just went public this week. It shows Tae Ahn Lea being cooperative and complying with police after he is pulled over for allegedly making an improper turn.

(Story continues below video)

After Lea took a call from his mother and put her on speakerphone, a police officer reached into his car, grabbed his wrists and pulled him from the car.

Lea protested, prompting a brief exchange with the officer, who asked him if he had drugs or weapons with him.

“I’m thinking, ‘They think I have drugs,’” Lea told WAVE 3 News on Friday. “So that’s why I was uncomfortable. I was stereotyped and I don’t like to be judged that way ... (My mom) is a juvenile probation officer. I can’t get away with stuff like that, and I don’t want to be involved with something like that.”

Lea said he doesn’t know why he was pulled from the car.

His mother, Tija Jackson, arrived on the scene after she could no longer hear her son on speaker phone.

“I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t want them to take what I did out on my son,” Jackson said.

Lea was pulled out of the car at this point and handcuffed on the side of the road standing next to an unmarked Ford police car. The lights were going off.

Office Gabriel Hellard guarded Lea and his body camera video shows Hellard initiating conversation by asking, “Why do you have such a negative view towards police?”

The question was directed toward the 18-year old, who says he had never been pulled over or interacted with police.

Jackson recorded officers searching the car and their interaction with her son from afar.

Officer Jeff McCauley approached Jackson and explained they were part of a violent crime unit that makes traffic stops to identify violent criminals. Jackson said she was not told why her son was pulled out of the car.

Body camera video shows Jackson narrating while she recorded the traffic stop. McCauley’s camera picks up him saying “There she goes making stuff up again. She is just making up stuff. It’s a disease.”

Lea and his mother have hired an attorney, claiming such stops should never happen to anyone else.

“Some of the words and phrases that were used, were used to try to get a rise,” Attorney Lonita Baker said.

Baker and Josephine Buckner are representing Lea and say a lawsuit will be filed soon. Baker said she believes a majority of LMPD officers do good work, but the actions in the video undo all the progress made in community relations.

“So now every Ford I see, I think it might be the police I don’t know,’ Lea said.

LMPD officers said in the video that they had the authority to conduct the searches. The department can’t comment any further, citing the pending investigation.

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