A man claims he was literally the victim of highway robbery after police in Texas pulled him over.
Tenaha, Texas, police stopped Roderick Daniels on Highway 59 and told him to hand over his jewelry and $8,500 in cash, which he had in order to buy a new car, CNN reports. They said he was driving 2 miles over the speed limit at 37 mph.
He said one of the officers even tried on the confiscated jewelry in front of him during the October 2007 incident.
"They asked me, ‘What you are doing with this ring on?’ I said I had bought that ring. I paid good money for that ring," Roderick recalled. "He took the ring off my finger and put it on his finger and told me how did it look. He put on my jewelry."
The driver was promptly thrown in jail, where police reportedly threatened to slap him with charges of money laundering. However the cops offered to let him go free if he signed papers that gave up any rights he had to the possessions they confiscated from him.
"I actually thought this was a joke," Roderick, who lives in Tennesse, told CNN. "To be honest, I was five, six hundred miles from home. I was petrified."
He signed the forfeiture papers in the incident. Now, he and a group of other drivers who have fallen victim to the same police department are part of a lawsuit that’s trying to put an end to the carjackings. The victims say the only thing they did wrong was driving while Black(or Latino).
Their lawyer, David Guillory, has leveled harsh criticism at the traffic stops. "I believe it is a shakedown. I believe it’s a piracy operation," he said. “They’re disproportionately going after racial minorities.”
Tenaha’s mayor, George Bowers, denies any wrongdoing by his police force that, according to him, always follows the letter of the law. In Texas, police can take money and personal belongings if they think it may have been used to commit a crime. They must return everything if no charges are filed or the suspect is acquitted.
However, the class-action lawsuit states that much of what’s wrongly confiscated is never given back.
– Sonya Eskridge