Delaware AG seeks federal civil rights review after Del state bus incident. : NPR

Delaware State University students enter the Dover campus.

William Bretzger/Delaware News/USA Today Network via Reuters

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William Bretzger/Delaware News/USA Today Network via Reuters

Delaware State University students enter the Dover campus.

William Bretzger/Delaware News/USA Today Network via Reuters

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings says she is ‘deeply disturbed’ following news of the arrest and search of a bus carrying members of the women’s lacrosse team at Delaware State University, a university historically black, last month in Georgia.

In a statement released Wednesday, Jennings called on Georgia and U.S. Justice Department officials to investigate what team members call racial profiling.

“Like so many others, I am deeply troubled by the actions our Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team and staff suffered in Georgia last April,” Jennings said in the statement.

In a letter to Assistant United States Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, Jennings called the incident “disturbing” and “deserving your attention.”

“These students and coaches weren’t in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time,” Jennings said in his letter, obtained by NPR. “Not only did the deputies find nothing illegal in the bags, they did not issue a single ticket for the alleged traffic violation.”

The team bus was heading north on Interstate 95 in Liberty County, Georgia on April 20 after games in Georgia and Florida. Liberty County is on the Georgia coast, nearly 30 miles from Savannah.

According to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the bus was pulled over after officials said it traveled illegally in the left lane. During the traffic stop, several of the players’ bags were searched after a K-9 narcotics-sniffing dog issued what officials call an “open-air alert.”

In a video posted to YouTube by team member Sydney Anderson, a deputy addresses students just before the research begins, telling them that recreational marijuana use is illegal in Georgia.

It is not known at this time what happened before the recording started or after the recording stopped.

“If there’s anything in there that’s questionable, tell me now,” the officer says in the video. “Because if we find him, guess what?” We cannot help you.

Anderson, a sophomore in the state of Delaware, wrote on Instagram that she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the actions of the authorities, saying there was no probable reason for the police to search the personal belongings of players looking for drugs.

“Our constitutional rights have been violated and justice must be served,” Anderson wrote. “Time and again, racial encounters happen without being formally addressed. It’s time to take [a] standing up for racial injustice and it starts now!”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said deputies stopped several vehicles the morning of the incident, finding contraband in another bus that had been pulled over.

Bowman pointed out that deputies were unaware of the race or gender of those inside the bus when he was arrested. The deputies in the video were not identified at the press conference.

“At the time, or even in the weeks that followed, we were unaware that this shutdown was perceived as racial profiling,” Bowman said.

“While I do not believe racial profiling has taken place based on the information currently available to me, I welcome feedback from our community on ways to improve our law enforcement practices while maintaining the law,” he added.

Delaware State University President Tony Allen said in a statement that he was “furious” about the situation and had contacted Georgia law enforcement for further investigation.

“None of us should lose sight of how thin the line between the usual and the extraordinary, between the mundane and the exceptional, between safety and victimization is,” Allen wrote.

“That’s true for all of us, but especially for communities of color and the institutions that serve them. The resulting feelings of helplessness are always the object of abusers.”

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