SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Delaware State University (DSU) is urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the controversial traffic stop and search of a bus transporting the school’s women’s lacrosse team in Liberty County.
During a virtual press conference on Friday, DSU President Tony Allen announced the university’s plans to file a formal complaint to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
Just days prior, Delaware’s attorney general called on Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, to thoroughly investigate.
“By all accounts these young women were [representing] their school and our state with class — and they were rewarded with a questionable at-best search through their belongings in an effort to find contraband that did not exist,” Attorney General Kathleen Jennings wrote to Clarke.
Allen called the traffic stop “constitutionally dubious” while outlining how the stop and search was a violation of rights.
“On April 20, they were stopped for a minor traffic violation that turned into a search for illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia,” Allen said. “We believe both the stop and search were a violation of rights for every passenger on that bus and those of the driver.”
The university president also addressed recently released bodycam footage released by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. Allen said the footage raises more questions than answers.
“Sheriff Bowman insists that personal items were not searched. The video clearly shows officers searching toiletries, searching clothes and opening a family graduation gift,” he explained.
Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman holds that his deputies did nothing wrong. He said he spoke with DSU’s president this week and hopes to have a conversation with the lacrosse team about the incident.
Allen said the team is still contemplating a discussion with the sheriff and that the university plans to file the complaint with the DOJ in the next week.