COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND (UMPD)
On this particular night, while working my midnight shift on patrol, I was assigned to patrol a specific area, Charlie Sector, in the city of College Park. There is a four lane highway that cuts through the city, on the north side, with a very wide grassy median separating the two lanes on each side. As you travel through the city down this highway, you will pass the University of Maryland Golf Course, which from time to time holds important tournaments related to the PGA. Well, as I was on patrol, I had positioned my cruiser on the right shoulder, completely blacked out, just watching traffic as it goes by. I am not sure how long I waited, but I saw a car coming up behind me, cresting the hill, with only one headlight working, and as it passed me I only noticed one person in the car, the driver. Once the car passed me I waited a few seconds before pulling out behind it with my lights still off.
By this time I got on the radio and communicated to the dispatcher that I was about to conduct a traffic stop, which I gave them the description of the car and my current location. Almost immediately after I turned on my blue and red lights, the car began to slow down without applying the break, which at this time the car might have been doing about 30mph in a 45mph zone. However, although the car had slowed down significantly, it took about another thirty seconds before the car finally came to a complete stop on the right shoulder, which was maybe a mile from where I first saw the car. While the car was slowing down on the shoulder, I noticed two more cruisers sitting in the golf course parking lot facing in my direction. No more than probably ten seconds after I finally stopped the car, the two officers that were in the golf course parking lot began heading my way, which didn’t take them very long to get to me.
With confidence knowing that they were just around the corner if I needed them, I approached the driver side window and noticed it was a young black male, about 18-20 years of age. The very first thing I noticed when I made contact with him, after I asked for his license and registration, was that he had his hands up in the air, over his head, and made the statement of “Don’t shoot me bro! Whatever you do, don’t shoot me!” Now, obviously I was not prepared for this type of reaction or initial contact with the young man, so it took me a second to adjust to the situation. After he gave me his license and registration, he repeated the same statement again at least two more times, with his hands still in the air and his eyes locked on me. Through all my years in law enforcement, I have never encountered anything like this before, but soon his reaction would be telling of why he was like that on his first contact with me. I simply responded to him by saying, “Okay. I won’t shoot you. Relax. Don’t do anything that would cause me to go that route.”
He then slowly put his hands down and took a deep breath, which at this time again I am still trying to figure out his demeanor. Once I got his license and registration that is when my back up arrived behind me, which was a good sense. When I told him that I pulled him over for his headlight not working, he volunteered information by telling me, and the other officers, that he was involved in an accident not too long before I pulled him over. Going further into the conversation, he once again volunteered information that the accident happened in a neighboring county and that police was called. Following my gut instincts on this traffic stop, I had my dispatcher check with that neighboring county police to see if any accident was reported in the location the young male told me. When that check came back negative for police report of any accidents involving his car, he then changed the location of his accident that it happened in Washington, D.C., and it involved a taxi, which was a hit and run.
This time I had one of my secondary officers, along with the dispatcher, check with D.C. Metropolitan Police to see if they received any accident notifications, involving a blue Dodge Neon. Again, his story didn’t check out with D.C. either, but once more his story was changed to that police were not involved and that an agreement was reached with the other driver. Okay, at this point during the traffic stop I am in strong belief that this driver is hiding something, but I couldn’t figure it out at that moment. But, just as I was heading back to my cruiser to issue the driver a warning for his headlight, it was brought to my attention that there was a half full bottle of alcohol in the backseat. With the driver being under the age of 21, that lead to another issue and a citation for underage possession. It has been my practice that when I have multiple pieces of paper to issue a driver, I tend to get the driver out of the car. For me this is comfortable, for others it may not be, but it is better for me to do that and to get them away from any weapons in the vehicle, and also take stress off of my back wearing my equipment bent over.
After I had written the warning for the headlight and an alcohol citation for underage possession, I went back up to the driver side window and ordered the driver to exit. When I had asked him to step out of the vehicle, he first looked at me with deer in the headlights look and appeared very nervous to do so. It took another few seconds to get him out of the car and back towards my cruiser. As he is walking towards my cruiser, he kept looking at his car where he left his driver’s door open, exposing the interior of the car for easy scanning. By this time, one of my secondary officers walked over to close the driver’s door and discovered a gun on the driver’s floorboard. Immediately after the officer yelled out the code for weapon, the other secondary officer, and myself, took the driver into custody, who kept claiming it was only a bb gun. Upon further examination of the weapon, it was a fully loaded twenty-five caliber pistol with one in the chamber ready to be fired.
Later, on when I questioned the suspect he told me he got the gun after his first year at Howard University when he got robbed. Since then he has had it, with the serial number filed off, and has been transporting it with him nearly every day. Of course, he wouldn’t give up the person that gave him the gun, but didn’t mind telling me everything else that involved him having the gun. Sadly, about a month later after I arrested him, he was again arrested by a neighboring county. The irony part of that is he got arrested by the county he lied about in his story to me a month earlier. This was a college student, who had no prior criminal history, breaking the law by transporting a concealed weapon in his car, and had his hands up over his head prior to me ever knowing it. As I thought about the situation when doing my report, it dawned on me of why he made that statement earlier in the traffic stop when I first made contact with him. I have vowed that if I ever hear that again, I will be more alert and diligent to the person’s actions and attitude. If the other officers didn’t show up when they did, who knows what would’ve happened. Sometimes people give up themselves for what they do, say and how they act towards authority. This makes policing easy when people help you do your job by incriminating themselves. Another young black man, who had no criminal history, messed up his own life due to his own actions.