DORCHESTER, S.C. (WCBD) – The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) is investigating after a group of black teenagers driving through a neighborhood on Sunday was allegedly followed and cornered in a cul-de-sac by a fellow driver.
The driver, identified as Alan Thompson, claimed that the group was speeding.
According to the report, one of the teens called his mom while driving and told her that he was being followed. Instead of driving straight home, he drove around the neighborhood to confirm that he was actually being followed.
He turned into a cul-de-sac at which point Thompson pulled in behind, parking his car across the cul-de-sac. The report states that the victim’s mother called 9-1-1 and went to the scene herself.
Ultimately, no charges were filed against either party. However, photos posted from the incident elicited a large response on social media, prompting many organizations associated with Thompson to respond.
Thompson is a Reservist in the United States Air Force, not in duty status, and the CEO of local business.
The 315 Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston released a statement acknowledging the incident and emphasizing the “culture of dignity and respect for all” embraced at Joint Base Charleston.
Thompson put out a letter sharing his side of the story. He said that he “stands against all forms of racism” and that his “actions were incorrectly labeled as racially motivated.”
According to Thompson, the teens were driving at what he estimated to be over 60mph in a 45mph zone. Thompson says that he called 9-1-1 and followed the group “in order to obtain their tag numbers.”
As the cars turned around in the cul-de-sac, Thompson claims that he blocked them in with his car out of fear for the safety of the children playing in the area.
Thompson said that the occupants of the cars stayed in their vehicles “for several minutes” as he was on the phone with 9-1-1. It was not until they got out of their cars, several minutes after he blocked them in, that he realized it was a group of black teens.
In his letter, Thompson vehemently denies any accusations that his actions were racially motivated. He says that the incident and the subsequent backlash from the community opened his eyes to “exactly how [his] actions alarmed these teen drivers and their parents.”
“While I never held a racist or violent intention, I understand this entire situation does not portray that when viewed through the eyes of people of color. They felt threatened. They were afraid. I apologize that my actions frightened them.”
Thompson plans to attend the YWCA of Charleston’s Racial Equity Institute, which is a two-day course “designed to develop the capacity of participants to better understand racism in its institutional and structural forms.”
DCSO said that the investigation is active and no further information will be released at this time.
Thompson’s full statement:
Everyday each of us has an opportunity to learn. On Sunday, March 28th, I learned a lot. As a result, I comprehend more deeply that actions have consequences and that people of color in our country frequently do not feel safe. I do not condone racism. I stand against all forms of racism. Racism is not tolerated of anyone associated with Stingray Branding, including me. However, on Sunday my actions were incorrectly labeled as racially motivated. Because I want to clarify what happened, I am outlining the progression of events, and my commitments to the future. Sunday evening, I was traveling home after returning my son to his mother, following my weekend visitation. When turning out of his neighborhood, I was traveling down a 2-lane road with a center turning lane and a posted speed limit of 45 mph. I was passed by two cars in the turning lane traveling approximately 60+ mph. As they returned to the right-hand lane, they didn’t have enough room in front of me and forced me off the road. Immediately, I called 911 to report the vehicles. At the time, I only knew the car colors and a description of one car make/model. Knowing that was not enough information for law enforcement to even file a report, I followed them in order to obtain their tag numbers. They immediately turned into a neighborhood, while continuing their high rate of speed, not stopping or slowing for any stop signs, nearly hitting several parked cars, and eventually turning down a road that ended in a cul de sac. I observed the vehicles almost hit 2 children who were riding a bike and a hoverboard in the road. The cars proceeded to turn around in the cul de sac and started to accelerate towards me. Fearing for the small children still playing in the street, I turned my car in front of them to force them to stop. I exited my car and shouted towards them that they needed to stop because law enforcement was on the way and they nearly hit the kids in the road. At this point, there was enough room for them to drive away, if they wanted to. I continued my conversation with 911 and walked behind their cars to get their license plate numbers. They remained in their cars and did not exit them or drive away. After a few minutes, the occupants exited their cars. This was the first time I was able to see them. As they exited, I saw they were a group of teens of color. Prior to this, I was not able to see who was driving or who was in the vehicles because of the rate of speed they were traveling and due to their being in front of me. The drivers walked away from the incident. I did not attempt any physical restraint, detainment, or involvement. I waited at the scene until law enforcement arrived. The drivers returned when law enforcement arrived, and no further communication occurred between us. Law enforcement spoke with them and with me and all parties were released without incident or any charges. The drivers were warned for leaving their cars in the roadway. I was warned for making a very dumb decision to pull in front of them, regardless of my reason for doing so. During the time the deputies were talking with the drivers, the parents of one of the teens arrived. The mother then inquired of me, did I know “they were children?” I replied, “yes.” All parties were allowed to leave without incident. On Monday afternoon, I was informed that the mother posted a photo of me during the incident, and the days since the incident, on social media saying I was a racist, white male who harassed, followed, and kidnapped her child with the hope that he would be hurt or have negative consequences from law enforcement. That is not the case. Until they exited their vehicles, I did not know the age or skin color of the drivers or occupants of the vehicles. I did follow the cars into the neighborhood hoping to get their license plate numbers. I never expected to interact with them in any other way — until I saw the vehicles come close to hitting the children in the roadway when I felt that it was my responsibility to prevent small children from being hit. I understand that racism is a subtle and pernicious. It takes many forms beyond just words or violent actions. I have become more aware of exactly how my actions alarmed these teen drivers and their parents. As a consequence of reading people’s social media comments on these posts, hearing voicemails left for me, and viewing commentary, I have gained a deeper understanding of the fear that people of color, especially young men, live with. I realize my actions have impacted these teens. I have learned that while my intentions were for the safety of small children and to report their traffic violations, the actions I took caused fear in them, their families, and my community. I have passionately stood against racism. I do not tolerate it. I am sad that my name and actions have resulted in furthering the racial divide in the city I’ve shared with you for my entire life. While I never held a racist or violent intention, I understand this entire situation does not portray that when viewed through the eyes of people of color. They felt threatened. They were afraid. I apologize that my actions frightened them. I have known many of you for several years, and I ask that you forgive me. I apologize for my actions. I hope by our association you are not impugned. I apologize – for even creating an opportunity that would allow that to happen. I apologize for the decisions I made in this incident. I understand this conversation must be had to clear the air. Because I have learned that actions can be perceived differently than how they were intended, and because I want to do my part to end racism and care about how it affects the people in my community, I am going to attend the YWCA of Charleston’s Racial Equity Institute. The REI Phase I is a ” two-day REI training is designed to develop the capacity of participants to better understand racism in its institutional and structural forms. In Phase II “participants examine internalized oppression, feelings of inferiority and superiority, racial identity development, and how personal and organizational practices are affected by these feelings.”