SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – Community activists held a press conference on Friday afternoon regarding a traffic stop they say resulted in a weapon being drawn on an African American man.
Louis Smith, a known community activist and executive director for the Community Resource Center, said the man was driving at night and attempted to adjust his headlights when officers with the Summerville Police Department initiated a traffic stop.
Smith believes the man, later identified as Noah West, was being racially profiled. “The police officers proceeded to draw their guns on the young man, in front of his mother,” he said. “This incident has left both the young man and his mother traumatized.”
The traffic stop happened March 21st at the Checkers on Highway 78 just after 10:30 p.m.
According to a report from the Summerville Police Department, officers were investigating several 911 calls regarding shots being fired in the area.
The report states officers initially responded to a home on Weber Road after callers said they heard between 4-5 shots being fired. After searching the area, investigators located three .40 caliber shell casings on the street in front of one home. There was also a bullet hole that had struck the center frame of the home.
A spokesman for the Summerville Police Department, Lt. Chris Hirsch, told News 2 that in matter of minutes – as officers were searching the area looking for possible suspects – they saw a vehicle possibly being involved in the shooting leaving the area of the reported gunshots.
“The vehicle was observed to not have headlights on while on the roadway, and the officer proceeded to stop the vehicle,” he explained.
He said once the officer found the vehicle was not involved, the driver was released from detention and issued to them a written warning for having no headlights.
The report from Summerville PD did not include details about the traffic stop.
Video that was provided to News 2 from Louis Smith and the family shows West being detained and complying with officer requests, while another officer stands back with what appears to be a gun drawn and pointed at the individual.
As West is walked back towards the cruiser, the officer with the gun drawn can be seen approaching the vehicle before checking the vehicle windows.
State Rep. Marvin Pendarvis is the lawyer representing West. He says what happened to his client is a real problem. “It’s the right time to have that conversation…this is an opportunity for us to look at preventative measures.”
During a press conference on Friday afternoon, Louis Smith said that for an officer to pull a gun during a simple traffic stop, handcuff and get the driver on his knees over a headlight being out is very concerning.
“They didn’t even pat him down. They didn’t even check the headlights. This video is compelling and very disturbing.
West said that he went to see his mom at Checkers and to get something to eat after a business meeting when the officers pulled him over. “I was really confused,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I did what I was told. I pulled over and they told me to get out the car, started yelling at me … I did what I was supposed to do.”
He said the officers did explain why they pulled him over, noting there had been a nearby shooting, and said they only needed to ask him some questions.
“After he got me out the handcuffs, he told me it was because my headlights were out, I didn’t know my lights were out. After that he gave me a paper saying we had an interaction and that was pretty much it.”
He said all he was thinking was “stay calm, God’s got you. I stayed calm; I was so polite to the police. They couldn’t do anything to me because I was so polite and calm. If you make one false move, you might get shot – that’s what was going through my head.
West says it’s time for police to change. “(when) they change, the world will become a better place,” he said.
He said the department has not reached out to him to discuss what happened that night.