Brunswick County, VA – A South Carolina woman twisted a traffic citation into allegations of racism on April 27, after a sheriff’s deputy issued her a speeding ticket (videos below).
“You know, we shouldn’t be afraid to drive and get pulled over by the police,” Dawn Hilton-Williams said through tears in a Facebook live video that went on in excess of 11 minutes. “My natural instinct, for anybody who knows me, knows that I do not like to be told what to do.”
Unedited bodycam footage released by the sheriff’s office showed the deputy as he approached the woman’s vehicle, identified himself, and asked for Hilton-Williams’ license and vehicle information.
He explained that he stopped her for traveling 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, at which point Hilton-Williams said she had not seen any signs posted regarding the speed limits in the area.
The cordial conversation continued briefly, before the deputy returned to his patrol car to run Hilton-Williams’ information.
When he returned to her vehicle, the deputy told her he had issued her a traffic summons, and began explaining her options with regards to paying the ticket or appearing before the court.
“It’s a traffic summons?” Hilton-Williams’ interrupted. “Where’s the sign that says its 55 miles per hour?”
“Numerous places,” the deputy responded. “You are more than welcome to go back there and look at them, take pictures of them or whatever you want to do.”
“So you didn’t give me a warning?” Hilton-Williams asked. “You gave me an actual ticket?”
“Yeah, no warnings today ma’am,” the deputy replied, as he resumed explaining her options.
“Wow,” Hilton-Williams said in entitled frustration.
“You have the option to prepay this,” the deputy continued. “I'm going to give you a phone number, plus a website that has our courthouse information. If you contact our courts they will tell you what the fine is, answer any one of your questions and if you decide to prepay it, you do not have to come to court.”
Hilton-Williams again interrupted, and said she would not pay the ticket, and that she planned to hire a lawyer.
Unfazed, the deputy concluded his instructions, and told Hilton-Williams to sign the citation as an assurance that she would either pay the ticket online, or appear at her scheduled court time.
“I’m not going to sign that ticket,” she responded. “I don’t have to sign it. But I appreciate it.”
The deputy went on to explain that her endorsement was not an acknowledgement of guilt.
“It's only a promise to me that you're going to get it taken care of by either coming to court or prepaying it,” he said.
The deputy then presented Hilton-Williams with a third option for handling the matter.
“If you refuse to sign the summons at this point, I'm gonna have to get you out of the side of the police car, place you under arrest and take you in front of a magistrate,” he calmly explained. “I will get your vehicle towed and go from there. So, yes ma'am you do not have a choice...”
Hilton-Williams opted to endorse the citation, and was sent on her way.
“Thank you very much, and you have a very safe day,” the deputy told her, as he walked back towards his patrol vehicle.
As Hilton-Williams traveled down the highway, she jumped onto Facebook Live to broadcast a tearful and warped version of what had just occurred.
“I have had a traumatic experience,” she told her viewers.
“I just was bullied by a racist cop...in the middle of nowhere, where I could have been the next victim of police abuse with no repercussion,” she said in the video. “He just walked off, the bully that he was, proudly, happily, like he had accomplished something by degrading me as an African-American.”
Hilton-Williams claimed to have been pulled over for “7 miles an hour” or “some kinda small difference” over the posted speed limit, by “this white cop, who said he’s Sergeant Somebody.”
“And he looked like he was ready...to pull me out of the car,” she said in the video. “He didn’t say, ‘I’ll ask you to step out of the car.’ He said, ‘I’ll put you outta the car, and I’ll arrest you, and I’ll impound your car.’”
Hilton-Williams said she signed the ticket “only because I was immediately afraid.”
“He said, ‘I don’t care. You’re gonna get out of this car. I’ll just pull you outta the car,’” she falsely claimed.
“It was a very controlling, bullying experience, and no one should threaten to pull me out of a car just because I...have a right not to sign the ticket,” Hilton-Williams said. “You want to be strong, and you want to fight against injustice, but then you also don’t want to be dead.”
“This is where I am,” Hilton-Williams said, as she turned the camera to display the rural landscape she was driving through. “So it’s not like I’m not afraid, because this is where we got lynched. This is where, even in today’s day.”
“I was in the middle of areas where I know there were tons of slaves...where there were open fields of plowed areas,” she lamented. “That is racist, and this happens every single day.”
She then asked if any of her “white friends” ever felt the same way when they were stopped by the police.
“Are they afraid that they’re never gonna come home to see anybody else?” Hilton-Williams asked her viewers. “If you’re not African American...pulling you out of the car doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you’re African American and you get pulled out of the car, you get shot, or you get tased, or you get...Sandra Bland.”
“It doesn’t matter how polite you are, it’s all sick, crazy bullying, and the police are ridiculous,” she continued. “I will be making a complaint.”
Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts released the bodycam footage after he received dozens of phone calls from citizens who became concerned after watching Hilton-Williams’ tearful account, WTVR reported.
"I started getting calls from citizens asking what is going on. They had seen a posting and were concerned about how I would allow it to happen," Sheriff Roberts said.
The sheriff defended his deputy, and said he did nothing wrong during his interaction with Hilton-Williams.
"I don't know what she has been through and I don't know her life history,” Sheriff Roberts told WTVR. “What I worry about is this kind of thing will inflame situations where you see cops in other states have been executed while they were just eating lunch.”
Despite the release of the bodycam footage, Hilton-Williams insisted that she planned to file a complaint against the deputy.
“All he had to do was say, 'Step out of the car ma’am.' I felt that it was threatening and I didn't feel safe because he's got the gun and he's got the badge," she told WTVR.
You can watch the deputy's interaction with Hilton-Williams, as well as her Facebook Live account of events, in the videos below: