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Two South Carolina sheriffs are rejecting claims of racism while releasing a bodycam video of officers pulling over a bus full of students from an HBCU earlier this month.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright and Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said at a joint press conference Monday that Shaw University President Paulette Dillard’s version of events of a traffic stop were wrong.
“This behavior of targeting Black students is unacceptable and will not be ignored nor tolerated,” Dillard told WTVD. “Had the students been white, I doubt this detention and search would have occurred.”
Eighteen students and two staff advisers from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, were on their way to the Center for Financial Advancement Conference in Atlanta on Oct. 5 when their bus was stopped by police over a minor traffic violation in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Dillard told ABC News Raleigh-Durham station WTVD.
According to ABC News, Dillard claimed Spartanburg County Sheriff police dogs searched through the students’ bags.
In response to her claims, Wright said at Monday’s news conference, “President Dillard said they were searched by blood-thirsty dogs. There was one dog; he was on a leash. Students were never even close to that dog. None of the students were even asked off the bus.”
“There is absolutely no truth to what she said — nothing,” Mueller said. “It’s disheartening to know that when your guys do things right, you still have to get up and defend their actions,” Mueller reaffirmed. “We’re not defending what they did, because they didn’t do anything wrong. What we’re having to defend is the racism part.”
In body camera footage from the South Carolina Sheriff’s Office, which was obtained by ABC News, officers can be seen approaching the bus , checking out the bus driver’s license and speaking to the driver while a police dog sniffed luggage located underneath the vehicle.
Body camera footage did not show any Shaw University insignia on the contract bus, which had the words ‘CHAUFFERED TRANSPORTATION’ printed on its side.
The video also shows an officer searching the driver for weapons after he placed his hand in his pockets. The driver pulls out candy from his pockets while engaging in conversation with the officer.
Law enforcement officials issued the bus driver a written warning, the video shows.
Shortly after the incident, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper expressed “deep concern” over what school officials say transpired during the traffic stop. Along with outrage and allegations of racism from the school’s president and five North Carolina members of Congress asking the Justice Department to conduct a thorough review, this story continues to develop.