Winfield, Kansas – In a bizarre case that highlights why the War on Drugs has failed in the United States, police claimed they had probable cause to search an innocent man’s car because it had “vegetation” on the window seal.
Rudy Samuel was driving and reportedly obeying all the traffic laws in his town when officers pulled him over and told him he failed to use his turn signal within 100 feet of his turn. He claimed police were just making up an excuse to pull him over to search his vehicle and apparently he was right.
“Okay. I’ve been pulled over in Winfield, Kansas, again,” Samuel said, as he documented the encounter on Facebook Live. After asking for his driver’s license and scanning his information to make sure there were not any warrants for his arrest, the two Winfield officers then returned to the vehicle.
“What caught my attention was this vegetation stuff right here,” a Winfield officer told Samuel.
“That’s tree stuff, man! Test it!” Samuel fired back. The officer then took tree droppings and puts it in a plastic bag to be used as evidence in his traffic stop of Samuel.
“I don’t even smoke,” Samuel can be heard saying in his defense. He then asked the officer to tell him again the reasons why he was stopped, but the officer appeared annoyed at his question saying, “I already explained that to you.”
Apparently feeling he had met the standards for probable cause to search the vehicle, incredulously for finding vegetation on the driver’s window seals, the officer then ordered Samuel to step out of his vehicle. The young man objected and called into question the officer’s probable cause. Samuel asked the officer to test the tree droppings to determine if it was an illegal drug or substance but the officer refused, saying he would do it later.
Samuel refused to step out of the car but the officer escalated his use of force by forcing the young man out of the vehicle, onto the ground and detaining him. It is unclear if he was placed in handcuffs or not. The video went dark and eventually ended. Samuel said the officer ended the Facebook live recording by powering off the phone but not before the officer can be heard saying, “You are being detained so I can search the vehicle…you’ve got that vegetation in your window.” Samuel can also repeatedly be heard saying he did not give permission to search his vehicle.
The young man posted the video on his Facebook page and his encounter with police in Winfield has now gone viral. Many residents who commented on the video said they, too, had been pulled over for turn signal violations and harassed by police. Samuel commented on his own video saying they wanted to search his car from the minute they turned on their police lights:
“He wanted to, but they didn’t pull over no dummy. Step by step, I told him patterns where he broke the law. He wanted my phone, I told him he needed a warrant for that too, so he just powered it off which he had no right to,” Samuel said.
With the right lawyer, Samuel will likely win a civil rights lawsuit against the city for the legal traffic stop which turned into an illegal search based on the officer’s own admission he saw plant matter on the window seal. A quick $4 test of the plant matter would have shown within seconds that the material was not an illegal drug or substance. But that was likely NOT what police were after. The video serves to illustrate the lengths law enforcement officers will go to, to bend the law in their favor so they can make unnecessary arrests.
The police contact with Samuel is reminiscent of another traffic stop The Free Thought Project reported on last year. Sherman Jackson and his brother were eating chicken at a local Zaxby’s Chicken restaurant in Smyrna, Georgia, when police officers reported they’d gotten a call about then two acting suspiciously. Both men were eventually arrested after refusing to exit their vehicle. In their minds, they had done nothing wrong. In the eyes of the law, however, they were a target for legal extortion.
Samuel was released after police did not find anything in his car. He and other Winfield residents say this type of harassment happens all the time and they fear that no one can do anything about it.
Posted by Rudy Samuel on Sunday, May 13, 2018