The Tampa Police Department is setting the record straight in regards to an incident involving a female US Army Soldier who had an encounter with TPD officers last week, in an effort to quell rumors of police misconduct.
A TPD officer was driving southbound through Tampa when he spotted a 2020 Nissan ALtima that had plates and a description matching that of a vehicle stolen out of Pinellas County.
Pulling the vehicle over, he encountered US Army Soldier Joneshia Wilkerson and his passenger, Zephanesha Dillard.
The officer positioned his vehicle at an angle in relation to the Nissan and took cover behind the door with weapon drawn, a fairly standard protocol for felony traffic stops and vehicles that are reported stolen.
Inside the Nissan, Wilkerson was taking the matter to the ‘Gram, ensuring that her followers on Instagram were aware of her current situation.
During the video, Wilkerson could be heard cussing up a storm due to the officer’s weapon being drawn.
Wilkerson told the officers that the vehicle was borrowed from a friend and that it was a rental.
According to Bay9News, the rental had been listed as “stolen” because it was overdue for return.
“I was so shocked at the fact that I had a gun pointed at me,” Wilkerson said. “It’s just like that’s the only thing that was going through my head.”
Wilkerson claimed that she was not well-treated by the officers while she was detained.
“Even when they placed me in handcuffs and everything, just how I was treated was completely wrong,” Wilkerson said. “They placed me in a vehicle, sat me in there with no AC, windows were rolled up. I was hot. I told them I had anxiety and PTSD.”
However, body camera footage shows a different side to the story, and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan supported his officers in an after-action review.
“The entire time the officer remains calm, followed protocol, keeping the occupants informed on what was expected,” Dugan said Monday.
Both the driver and passenger were released.
Chief Dugan’s statements came on the 10th anniversary of a local tragedy when Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab died in the line of duty while attempting to conduct a traffic stop.
The statement appeared to be in response to the massive public outcry over social media that followed the Instagram video, which was shared on Twitter by “StanceGrounded.”
“TPD officer pointed a gun aiming directly at the head of a 23 year old unarmed innocent black woman, Joneshia Wilkerson after alleging she was driving a stolen vehicle,” he wrote. “THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!!!”
In response, TPD released the full body camera footage to the public, showing a calm officer who never once pointed his sidearm at Wilkerson’s head.
“There is a post circulating on social media that misrepresents the facts of a recent felony traffic stop of an occupied stolen vehicle,” read a statement by TPD.
Chief Dugan attempted to explain why officers approach stolen vehicles with weapons drawn.
“Stolen cars are quite often used — to do a different type of crime whether you’re going to rob someone, break into houses, it usually leads to more crime, other crimes,” Dugan “That’s why we take such caution when it comes to stolen cars. The officer put his gun in a low ready position where it’s not pointed directly at the person but it’s already out and can be used and easily raised if they have to defend themselves.”
Wilkerson, however, isn’t having any of it.
“I feel like something needs to happen to the Tampa PD officer who held that gun on me for four minutes,” she told NBC News. “The Tampa PD, they are bullies, and the way they treat people is bad.”
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