Activists question use of force during traffic stop in Summerville

Updated: Apr. 2, 2021 at 9:53 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Community activists are calling for change in one Lowcountry police department after a dramatic traffic stop they claim was racially motivated.

Summerville police stopped 19-year-old Noah West for driving without headlights. Video released of the incident showed police officers with guns drawn as they ordered West to the ground.

The Summerville Police Department says they used a felony traffic stop on the teenager after they noticed his car around the same area as a separate shots fired call was made. Police said it was because they believed the driver to potentially be involved in the shooting.

“It was a bad experience,” West said. “It was just disrespectful. It burned. It burned in my soul.”

“He should not have been in a place where he would have a life changing or life altering experience,” said community activist Louis Smith.

Police say West was not involved in the shots fired call, they gave him a warning for having his headlights off and then let him go.

His mother watched in fear, and West said it was traumatizing and an overuse of police force.

“I’ve always lived in fear but you know, my stress level now is 1000 or more,” said Jamica West, Noah’s mother.

“All I was thinking was stay calm,” West said. “That’s literally what I was thinking. Stay calm. God’s got you.”

You can watch the whole press conference below.

An incident report states the traffic stop happened on March 21 at 10:43 p.m., minutes after police responded to the area of Weber Road to investigate a report of shots fired at a home.

“Within minutes of the Summerville Police Department receiving these emergency calls, a Summerville Police officer observed a vehicle possibly being involved in the shooting leaving the area of the reported gun shots,” Lt. Chris Hirsch said in a statement. “The vehicle was observed to not have headlights on while on the roadway. The officer proceeded to stop the vehicle by traffic stop.”

Hirsch said police conducted a felony traffic stop because of the seriousness of the situation.

“Once the officer found the vehicle to not be involved, the driver was released from detention and was issued a written warning for no headlights,” Hirsch said.

The incident report states four or five shots were heard in the area and that one of them struck a home in the 100 block of Weber Street.

No one was injured by gunfire.

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