A bus that was carrying a women’s lacrosse team of a historically Black college was pulled over by sheriff’s deputies in Georgia and searched for drugs. According to NBC News, the Delaware State University female lacrosse team was on their way home after playing three games in Florida when Liberty County sheriff’s deputies stopped the bus for a traffic violation.
The deputies, who had a drug-sniffing dog, then got into the bus and notified the team that they were going to search their luggage for narcotics. Prior to the search, one of the deputies is said to have told the students that recreational use of marijuana in Georgia is illegal.
“If there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now,” the officer was heard saying in a video that was recorded by a team member identified as Sydney Anderson. “Because if we find it, guess what? We’re not going to be able to help you.”
The deputy also informed them that they’ll be searching for “anything that you could put marijuana in.” This included smoking devices or scales that can be used to measure chunks of marijuana. But in a statement on Monday, the university’s president, Tony Allen, said “nothing illegal was discovered” in the search.
Touching on the encounter in an Instagram post this week, Anderson said the incident left her “disappointed but not surprised.” The sophomore also said there was no justification for the deputies to suspect the team of having drugs in their luggage.
“Our constitutional rights were violated and justice needs to be served,” wrote Anderson, per NBC News. “Time and time again, racial encounters happen without being formally addressed.”
Together with the dog, the officers searched the bus for 20 minutes, Anderson wrote, adding that they ultimately allowed them to continue their journey back home afterward. In a feature on the university’s news platform, Anderson recalled the officers tossed “underwear and other feminine products, in an attempt to locate narcotics.”
“Every time the students turned their heads, more officers appeared at the scene,” Anderson added. “The cops kept doubling, as they went from two to six officers.”
Responding to the incident at a news conference on Tuesday, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman claimed the deputies conducted several traffic stops on commercial vehicles that morning. And they discovered contraband in one of the buses. He also claimed the deputies did not know the race of the people on the bus.
“At the time, or even the weeks following, we were not aware that this stop was received as a racial profiling,” Bowman claimed. “Although I do not believe any racial profiling took place based on the information I currently have, I welcome feedback from our community on ways that our law enforcement practices can be improved while still maintaining the law.”
Allen said he’s investigating the incident with the university’s General Counsel and Athletic Director. “I have also reached out to Delaware’s Governor, Congressional delegation, Attorney General, and Black Caucus,” Allen added.
“They, like me, are incensed. We have also reached out to Georgia Law Enforcement and are exploring options for recourse—legal and otherwise—available to our student-athletes, our coaches, and the University.”