Memphis attorney: I was racially profiled during traffic stop

Memphis attorney claims he was racially profiled during traffic stop
Published: Jul. 8, 2017 at 1:16 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2017 at 5:53 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South attorney said he was profiled by Memphis police during a traffic stop. He said there is one question that officer did not ask that might have changed the entire exchange.

JB Smiley said officers need more diversity training. He said he never knew a traffic stop would lead to an officer yelling at him and his life being put in danger.

"I could have lost my life because he was fearful," Smiley said. "I wouldn't wish this on anybody."

Smiley said the entire encounter was scary on Thursday. He said an MPD officer profiled him and pulled him over.

Smiley is a civil attorney in Memphis.

"I'm an African-American male, and I tried to dress the part, but me dressing the part did not protect me," Smiley said.

He said he was stopped on Raleigh-Lagrange Road, and the officer said he was speeding. He also said Smiley's windows were tinted.

Smiley said he gave the officer his driver's license, attorney business card, and his gun carry permit.

That's when things seemed to get tense, according to Smiley.

"He asked me if I had a gun. I said indeed, it's in the car and then he asked me about my insurance," he said.

Smiley said he tried to pull his reading glasses down from his head to show the officer his insurance on his cell phone. That's when, according to Smiley, the officer yelled at him, and he thought he was going to get killed.

"Don't reach for it, don't reach for it," Smiley said the officer yelled. "At that point, I thought I was about to die."

He said the officer had his hand on his gun and assumed Smiley was reaching for his gun, but he said the officer never asked where his gun was at in the vehicle.

"Why would I reach for it? I just don't understand," Smiley said.

Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams said the officer's reaction could be the result of events nationwide.

"I think there's a heightened awareness now since the incident happened in Minnesota," Williams said.

In Minnesota, an officer shot and killed a black man during a traffic stop. Williams said he would have done one thing different in Smiley's case, but he understands how many officers feel right now.

"I would normally ask where is the gun located in the car, and please do not reach in that area," Williams said.

MPD said officers go through diversity and cultural training at least once a year. Smiley said he plans to file a complaint Monday.

MPD said it investigates all complaints.

WMC Action News 5 has requested body camera footage from this traffic stop. We have not received it yet.

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