BLADENSBURG, Md. - A pizza delivery driver in Bladensburg claims police used excessive force during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.
The intense exchange between 25-year-old Christopher Jeffries and a Bladensburg police officer was captured on Jeffries’ cell phone.
“I felt like I was living the last seconds of my life when the man walked out of his car,” said Jeffries.
Police said the tense moments were the aftermath of Jeffries driving erratically and nearly striking another motorist while abruptly making a left turn, and ignoring the officer’s attempt to initiate a traffic stop in a marked police vehicle.
Police also said Jeffries was defiant when he refused to give his license and registration and refused to roll down his window and more.
“Seeing that gun just on my side mirror was like a startling, frightening moment of like, ‘This could be it,’ given the atmosphere and the time that we are in,” said Jeffries.
Former police officer turned attorney Camara Mintz weighed in on this incident.
“The only thing that I think he did wrong, and this is just a technical thing I think, is he refused to get out of the car,” Mintz said. “Officers can order you outside of the car during a traffic stop almost for any reason.”
What about cracking the window instead of rolling it down?
“There is no law that specifically says you have to roll your window down to a certain height or roll it all the way down,” said Mintz.
Mintz is a former Fairfax County police officer and Charles County prosecutor.
Jeffries was delivering pizzas when he was stopped by police on a main roadway in Bladensburg. It was shortly after 11 p.m. on Saturday night in January.
“Basically he was looking for a safe place to pull over and apparently he didn't pull over fast enough for the officer,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, Jeffries’ attorney. “The officer gets out of the car with his gun drawn and points it in his face.”
He added, “This was completely disgraceful that this Bladensburg police officer would have his gun drawn on a routine traffic stop. He had his driver’s license, he had is information and the information that he didn't have – write him a ticket.”
Jeffries is suing the officer for civil rights violations.
Bladensburg Police Chief Charles Owens sent FOX 5 this statement saying:
“On January 16, 2016, at 11:07 p.m., a uniformed Bladensburg patrol officer observed a vehicle swerve across the painted lane divider on Baltimore Avenue in Bladensburg. The operator continued to drive erratically to Annapolis Road. The driver then abruptly turned left onto Kenilworth Avenue nearly striking another motorist. The driver continued on Kenilworth Avenue for about a half mile ignoring the officer's attempt to initiate a traffic stop in a marked police vehicle.
“Given the limits of a YouTube video captured by the driver's cell phone, the driver is shown to be defiant to lawful orders to give the officer his driver's license and registration card. The driver continued his defiance by refusing to roll-down his window to communicate with the officer, thus escalating the incident.
“Ordinarily, when a traffic stop is initiated the operator complies with the officer's request for their license and registration card. Maryland law requires a vehicle driver to produce their driver's license and registration card upon demand of a uniformed police officer. In this instance, the officer made numerous demands for his license and registration card.
“The driver faces charges in Prince George's County.”