Police release bodycam footage of controversial Winston-Salem traffic stop, arrest

A police video showing a Winston-Salem police officer arresting a woman during a traffic stop Wednesday documents an encounter that started with friendly exchanges between the officer and woman, but ended with the woman crying and yelling at the officer.

Police Chief Barry Rountree discussed the video at a news conference Friday in which the segments of the officer’s body-camera footage were played for reporters. Judge Richard Gottlieb of Forsyth Superior Court ordered the release of the video, granting a request from the city’s attorney office.

The 40-minute video includes an eight-minute tense and emotional encounter between Tekara Williams and Officer James Carter after Carter stopped Williams’ car Wednesday morning on Motor Road near Old Walkertown Road.

Williams couldn’t be reached Friday to comment on the police video.

Rountree said that a separate video recorded by a passerby and posted to Facebook has attracted local and national attention. Police and city officials wanted to publicly release the officer’s body-camera footage to demonstrate the city’s transparency regarding the controversial traffic stop.

“There is also a lot of misinformation, incorrect information, false information and different points of view that are being discussed around the city,” Rountree said. “I don’t have a problem with the different points of view. We all have our opinions. But when it boils down to it, there are only one set of facts.”

The separate video shot by Da’ton Edwards, who was driving past the scene during the arrest, was posted on Facebook, where it was viewed nearly 2 million times by Friday afternoon.

See: Video of Winston-Salem traffic stop, arrest going viral

Carter stopped a car driven by Williams at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday for allegedly going 51 mph in a 35 mph zone. Edwards’ video shows the confrontation already in progress, with Williams out of the car and visibly upset and Carter putting her arm behind her back. Carter appears to have Williams pinned to the door. Williams complains about the officer’s behavior and yells for help.

Rountree said that Edwards’ video shows the confrontation at its midway point. The police video records the entire encounter between Carter, Williams and other officers who arrived later at the scene. Edwards’ video also didn’t show that Williams repeatedly refused to comply with Carter’s orders, Rountree said.

Both videos show that Carter used the minimal amount of force necessary to arrest Williams, the police chief said. Both videos show Williams resisting Carter as well as yelling and cursing at him.

“Officer Carter remained calm and collected throughout this encounter,” Rountree said.

City Attorney Angela Carmon and Assistant City Attorney Lori Sykes filed a petition Friday asking a Forsyth Superior Court to order the release of the video. A new state law that passed last year requires officials and citizens to petition a judge to get body-camera footage released to the public. Police body-camera footage is not considered a public record under the new state law.

At the court hearing, Sykes said that Edwards’ video has been viewed 1.9 million times and has been shared more than 34,000 times. It has generated 19,000 comments, some of them inflammatory.

On Thursday, someone asked for a permit for a march stemming from the traffic stop. Carter is white and Williams is black. The request, Sykes said, referenced potential racial issues in the encounter but did not provide a time or date for the proposed march.

“We understand that there are some groups that want to rally, want to protest here in the city,” Rountree said. “That’s all well and good. We respect individual rights to protest peacefully.

“As long you protest peacefully, you have that right to do so,” he said. “As a police department, we will be there to protect you. That does not give you the right to loot or to damage anyone’s property.”

The police video begins with Carter driving his patrol motorcycle on Motor Road and then stopping Williams’ vehicle. Carter then tells Williams that he stopped her because she was driving 51 mph in a 35-mph zone. Williams complies with Carter’s request and gives him her driver’s license. He then walks to his motorcycle.

Their encounter escalates after Carter returns to Williams car and orders her to give him her car keys. She refuses, saying that she wants to call her grandfather.

“I’m taking the tags off the vehicle and I don’t want you to have the keys,” Carter said to Williams.

She again refuses his request.

Winston-Salem police said in a statement Thursday that the car’s license plate had been revoked, and the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles had issued a “pick up order” on the vehicle, requiring a law enforcement officer to seize the license plate.

“It’s not a request,” Carter said to Williams. “I need your car keys for my safety, so you won’t start the vehicle. I will give them back to you.”

Williams refuses, and then eventually Carter orders Williams to get out the vehicle. When she doesn’t do so, he forcefully removes her from the car. At one point, Williams asked Carter if he was arresting her because “I’m black girl.”

Carter replied that he arrested her because she refused to comply with his orders.

She complains about Carter’s actions and she calls her grandfather on her cell phone. The video shows Williams speaking loudly on the phone, telling her grandfather, “I’ve been stopped by a cop, and he’s harassing me. He’s putting his hands on me, saying he needs to take the vehicle. I need you here right now.”

Moments later, Edwards arrived on the scene and records a video of the encounter with her iPhone. Later, Carter puts Williams face down on the pavement and handcuffs her. A few minutes later, Carter stands her up, and Williams’ grandfather, Anthony Hunter, arrives on the scene.

Williams loudly complains about Carter arresting her to Hunter and Edwards. Another officer puts her into his patrol car.

Williams was charged with misdemeanor resisting a public officer, and given citations for operating a vehicle that displayed a revoked registration tag, driving with a revoked license, and speeding. She was released from custody after posting a $1,000 bond.

Bishop Todd Fulton, the chairman of the Social Justice committee of the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, attended the news conference and saw the police video. His organization is concerned for the rights of blacks who have been arrested and held in police custody throughout the country in recent years, he said.

Fulton said that video showed that Carter acted properly, and the encounter between Carter and Williams wasn’t racially motivated.

“The officer spoke to her in a professional and courteous manner at the start,” Fulton said. “But she didn’t give her keys to the officer.”

Police administrators are investigating the incident, Rountree said. Carter remains on the job as a motorcycle officer.

Rountree, who has been police chief since 2013, will retire Sept. 1 after 30 years of service. Rountree became an patrol officer in January 1988 and climbed the ranks to become an assistant police chief in 2007.

“I’m not going to second-guess what the officer did,” Rountree said. “He did what he had to do.”

Full video of Winston-Salem Police Department’s News Conference:

By John Hinton Winston-Salem Journal

Journal reporter Michael Hewlett contributed to this story.

© Copyright 2017, Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC

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