State Watch

Prosecutor says Black driver who was handcuffed, arrested should not have been stopped

A Black employee with the Department of Defense who was pulled over, handcuffed and arrested on charges of reckless driving, resisting arrest and eluding police should never have been stopped in the first place, a Virginia commonwealth’s attorney says.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano dismissed all counts previously faced by Juanisha Brooks after she was pulled over by a Virginia State Police officer in early March.

During the incident, dashcam footage showed Trooper Robert Hindenlang refusing to tell Brooks why he initially pulled her over, apparently for a broken taillight, before eventually dragging her out of the vehicle and demanding she take a field sobriety test after she admitted to having one alcoholic beverage.

Brooks was arrested and charged with several counts, though she was breathalyzed at the police station and blew a 0.0 reading, according to the Post. Her car was also towed and impounded.

Brooks told the Post that she was treated with a total lack of empathy or respect from Hindenlang, who gave her only a small Post-it note with the name of the tow lot to which her car had been towed.

She was only able to reach her car after a magistrate at a local courthouse offered her a ride to the Metro station, where she waited for hours for the station to open and for a train to take her near the impound lot. Brooks eventually arrived home 10 hours after the stop.

“Would he have done that to a White woman? No,” Brooks told the Post. “He didn’t see me as a human being. … This has to stop. It’s racism at its core, and it should be seen as such.”

Descano dismissed all the charges against Brooks, noting that her stop occurred just days after the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill banning traffic stops for broken taillights and adding that the trooper’s “dashcam footage does not provide a factual basis to support the warrants.”

Virginia State Police disagreed in a statement to the Post, while adding that an internal investigation into the incident would take place. The Post reported that the statement from police erroneously accused Brooks of driving “without any headlights or taillights, tailgating other vehicles and making unsafe lane changes, which are indicators of an impaired driver and provided reasonable suspicion for the trooper to initiate a traffic stop,” while dashcam footage reviewed by the Post showed that the woman’s headlights were indeed on.

“At no time during the traffic stop,” spokeswoman Corinee Geller told the Post, “did any Virginia State Police personnel make a direct or indirect reference to Ms. Brooks’s race, ethnicity, nationality or gender.”


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