Charges dropped for Black man stunned by cop in traffic stop
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Black DoorDash driver no longer faces charges in a traffic stop for speeding in which a police officer shot him with a stun gun, an exchange the man caught on video as he declined to leave his car and requested a police supervisor.
A judge this week dismissed the case against Delane Gordon, according to Hamilton County district attorney’s office spokesperson Bruce Garner. Gordon had been charged with speeding, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in the March 10 stop while delivering food in Collegedale, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Chattanooga.
The Collegedale Police Department last month cleared Evan Driskill, the white officer, of wrongdoing in the encounter and sharply criticized prosecutors over their handling of the case.
The police department said the prosecutor’s office should not have sought to drop the charges against Gordon and was wrong to halt the outside probe it asked the county sheriff’s office to perform and hand it off to the U.S. Department of Justice for further possible investigation.
Police Chief Jack Sapp said last month that his officers have “had to endure illegitimate claims of racism and threats of violence.” He added that he supports de-escalation when “practical” but argued that “in this specific event only one person was acting unlawfully and that was Mr. Gordon.”
Gordon’s attorney, Ryan Wheeler, said last month that “the only investigation that matters in this case was the one conducted by the Hamilton County DA’s office, which cleared my client,” calling the police probe “self-serving.”
After clearing the officer of an excessive force claim, police made his body camera recording public about a month and a half after Gordon’s legal team released his cellphone video. Law enforcement agencies had declined to release the body camera video while the investigation was ongoing. The internal investigation focused on the numerous times Driskill ordered Gordon out of the car and told him to produce identification.
Gordon’s cellphone video begins with the officer pointing the stun gun at Gordon, who is holding his driver’s license and sitting in the car. The officer yells “Get out!” multiple times at Gordon, who describes for viewers that the officer “pulled me over for a traffic stop and he’s going to tase me. You can’t do that, officer, because I called for your supervisor. I have my license.”
The officer says, “You refused to give your information. I told you to get out of the car. Now you’re resisting. Get out!” Gordon says he feels uncomfortable and adds, “Please get your supervisor.” The officer responds, “I don’t give a (expletive) what you feel like. I said get out.” The officer grabs the man and tries to yank him out of the car, as Gordon says “please don’t hurt me” and asks why he is doing this.
The officer releases Gordon, and as Gordon says the officer’s actions are “not lawful,” the officer fires the stun gun, striking Gordon.
“Oh my God, that’s not lawful, sir. That’s not lawful,” Gordon says after being stunned. Gordon’s video then ends.
The officer’s body camera shows more from before and after than Gordon’s recording.
As Driskill initially approaches Gordon’s car, the officer speaks conversationally to tell Gordon he was driving 49 mph (79 km/h) in a 35 (56 km/h) zone. Gordon asks for radar proof and says he wasn’t going that fast. The officer says Gordon would have to go to court to see the radar results. Driskill asks for identifying and insurance information.
Gordon soon after says, “I’m going to turn my video on” and reaches for his phone mounted inside the car. That’s when the officer opens the car door, telling Gordon to get out, trying to pulling him out and saying he would stun Gordon. Gordon’s video footage begins shortly after that point.
The body camera video shows that while Gordon was in handcuffs outside the car after being stunned, the two talk and disagree about why the situation escalated. Gordon notes that he had his information in his hand; the officer says the driver wasn’t handing it over.
The officer later told an internal affairs investigator that Gordon didn’t offer him the license or extend his arm out of the window, and “officers are trained never to reach inside the window of a vehicle during a traffic stop because it places the officer at a disadvantage and makes them vulnerable to attack,” the police report says.
“I asked for your supervisor. Why am I not allowed to ask that?” Gordon asksthe officer.
“Because we’re not doing that. When I give you a lawful order, you have to follow it,” Driskill replied.
The police department has called on the district attorney to release the independent review that prosecutors initially requested of the sheriff’s office.
The district attorney’s office said it doesn’t have and did not request those results. The sheriff’s office said either the district attorney or U.S. Department of Justice would need to release the info, saying the investigation is not considered closed. The local U.S. attorney’s office said it won’t confirm or deny an investigation.