Local News

'I was terrified': Raleigh man says he became traffic-stop statistic

Posted July 28, 2015

— In some North Carolina cities, black men are two to three times more likely to be searched by police, according to state traffic stop statistics. For Raleigh resident John Hunt, who is black, those numbers became all too real last month on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 1 in Vance County.

Hunt was heading home to Raleigh when a Vance County sheriff’s deputy got behind him. Hunt says he didn't want to stop over the crest of a hill, so he turned on his flashers until he found a safer place to pull over. He says he was shocked when the deputy ordered him out of the truck, gun drawn.

“I thought he was going to shoot me,” Hunt said. “He had the gun on me the whole while and got behind the truck, instructed me to bend down on my knees. And when he did that, another officer, he took my hands, he snatched it back, and another officer came, turned to the side, pulled a gun on me, and the other officer that stopped me put the handcuffs on me.”

Hunt asked, but said he wasn't given a reason for the stop. Deputies didn't ask as they searched his truck, he said. “I was afraid. I was terrified."

On that roadside, Hunt became part of a troubling statistic.

Frank Baumgartner is a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Much of his research focuses on social issues and race, including traffic stops.

“Unfortunately, I'd have to say I'm not shocked (about Hunt’s story),” Baumgartner said. “We always like to think we're living in a society where these kinds of disparities are lessening, but we're not. Actually, they're getting worse.”

WRAL Investigates went through state traffic stop data going back to January 2014 and found black male drivers in Fayetteville and Durham were searched three times more often than white drivers. In Raleigh, Cary and Rocky Mount, black men were two times more likely to be searched, which is in line with the state average.

Baumgartner analyzed more than a decade of data for every reporting law enforcement agency in the state. He says black drivers, on average, were 75 percent more likely to be searched even though the rate of actually finding anything illegal barely registered.

He says he fears “the young men in the community are acting out more because they've become increasingly accustomed to being disrespected, and the officers are being increasingly aggressive because they're involved in a dynamic that's a downward spiral.”

Baumgartner is encouraged that communities like Durham and Fayetteville are responding to racial concerns with changes, such as written consent and added sensitivity training for officers.

“It's going to continue to be unpleasant, but we can't solve a problem if we don't have those difficult conversations,” he said.

As for Hunt, he says he knows “all officers are not like that. It’s just a small percentage that are like that.”

Deputies eventually let Hunt go with no charges, but the experience changed his outlook.

“I can see why people would run if someone (is) pulling a gun on you, because you're afraid … even if you haven't done anything wrong,” he said.

WRAL Investigates repeatedly asked the Vance County Sheriff's Department to comment about Hunt's stop, as well whether an internal investigation was conducted, but did not receive a response. Durham and Fayetteville police also declined to comment on their high rates of searching black drivers.


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  • Mike Wells Jul 30, 2015
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    http://www.ncspin.com/traffic-stop-numbers-show-racial-bias/ This is to Professor Frank Baumbartner traffic study. We can all look at this with different view points. These statistics were reported by NC Spin from an interview with Professor Frank Baumbartner; • 30 percent of the traffic stops involved blacks, 21.5 percent whites, 7.92 percent Hispanics;

    • 4.86 percent of blacks’ stops led to searches; 2.74 percent of whites’, 5.39 percent of Hispanics;

    • 4.5 percent of blacks’ stops led to arrests, 2.8 percent of whites’, 5.93 percent of Hispanics’.
    The number of searches in white and hispanic lead to a 100% arrest. The black race searches was less than 100%. Now if the traffic stops were listed as to what type of stop it was, then these numbers may represent more. But looking at these numbers, looks like hispanics are being stopped more than anyone else.

  • Chris Hickman Jul 30, 2015
    user avatar

    Where are they getting these statistics from? Also this guy is scared....sure he is.....he's black and I'm sure it was a white officer and he knows he broke the law but instead of facing the consequences like most people he'd rather get on the TV and say he thought the police was going to kill him and he didn't do anything wrong. As you see they didn't put why he was pulled over by multiple deputies and pulled out of the car at gun point....why was he stopped? Tell the whole story dude. He must've did something pretty bad and it wasn't just cause he didn't stop immediately I promise you that. I bet if the show the dash cam on the incident more happened than that guy is saying. Also was it day time or night time, was the guys windows tinted where officers couldn't see inside of his vehicle, how far did he drive before he stopped and how fast was he going, what was he doing for the reason he got stopped. Tell the whole story next time and show the dash cam

  • Larry Bone Sr. Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    I was skeered waaaaaaaaa

  • Johan Summer Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    You can make "statistics" paint any picture you wish to. I have no way of knowing if this gentleman was pulled over without cause (just as the rest of you don't either).....but if a certain area is more highly populated by a certain race, it makes sense that traffic stops correspond. Until we get rid of the word "race" - we'll always have such issues unfortunately.

  • Gilbert Woods Jul 29, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Jim Buchanan you are only racist here.

  • Alex Handlovits Jul 29, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    It's saying that for it to be non-discriminatory you would expect something like half of all blacks searched as well as half of all whites searched during stops, regardless of total population numbers (50 out of 100 blacks, 3 out 6 whites, for example). For one race to have a statistically significant difference in *percentage* of searches during stops would indicate likely increased suspicion of blacks by the officers (defined as discrimination).

  • Gilbert Woods Jul 29, 2015
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    As soon as they draw their weapons at every stop and on every citizen. Equal treatment under the law. Lotty dotty everbody get a weapon drawn on them at every stop. No exceptions to the policy.

  • David Bowles Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    Another poor victim, when are we going to stop coddling these forever wanting to be a victim wannabes.

  • Ronnie Peacock Jul 29, 2015
    user avatar

    You can generally make stats say whatever you want them to. For example, this professor's stats say blacks are 3 times more likely to be searched than whites in Rocky Mount. Well duh. Rocky Mount's population is 75% black.

  • Belle Boyd Jul 29, 2015
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    View quoted thread