LUMBERTON — A Fairmont pastor who said he was racially profiled during a traffic stop in South Carolina has added to his story, saying now that two police officers were involved.
The story changed after a video of the event went viral showing that Rev. Jerrod Moultrie’s account of what happened was not accurate. The event has also grabbed the attention of the NAACP, which is investigating the allegation.
Moultrie was among a handful of minority pastors who called for a boycott of The Robesonian, saying the coverage of a sheriff’s candidate was racist and unfair.
The civil rights organization’s office in Baltimore announced it is conducting an “internal investigation into the report of racial profiling” by Moultrie after he was stopped by a Timmonsville police officer in April.
“In response to questioning by the NAACP’s Regional Field Office regarding an account of the traffic stop he posted on social media, the branch president, Rev. Jerrod Moultrie, addressed apparent contradictions between the body cam footage released by the Timmonsville Police Department and his social media account of the incident. Rev. Moultrie asserted that two different police officers questioned him after his car was stopped in the subdivision in which he resides,” the NAACP’s statement reads in part.
Moultrie, pastor of Oakgrove Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmont, was stopped April 12 in Timmonsville by police Officer Chris Miles for not using a turn signal while making a turn.
Early on the morning of April 13, Moultrie posted on Facebook, “Tonight I was racially profiled by Timmonsville officer cause I was driving a Mercedes Benz and going home in a nice neighborhood. But you know tomorrow they will hear from me.”
In his Facebook account of the traffic stop Moultrie wrote that Miles asked him if he had drugs, whose vehicle he was driving, where he works and why he was in the neighborhood.
The Facebook account reads in part:
“Me: I am a pastor and I live in the house on the left.”
“Officer: And I guess I am the Bill Gates.”
The Facebook post was later deleted.
“According to Rev. Moultrie, the body cam footage captures the arrival of the second police cruiser on the scene, but does not capture his interaction with the officer who conducted the initial stop — in a separate vehicle — and who interacted with Rev. Moultrie before the second police cruiser arrived,” according to the NAACP statement.
The body cam footage released by the Timmonsville Police Department does show a second police cruiser parked on the driver’s side and slightly behind Officer Miles’ vehicle. The footage also shows the officer who arrived in the second cruiser stood behind the cruiser’s open driver’s side door during the entire traffic stop and never approached Moultrie’s car.
Officer Miles’ body cam footage also shows that he told Moultrie he was stopped for failing to use a turn signal before making a turn. It also shows Miles never asked the reverend if he had drugs, whose car he was driving, where he worked and why he was in the neighborhood. The video also shows the name Bill Gates was not spoken during the encounter.
Miles is shown in the video as being calm and professional during the encounter. He did not issue Moultrie a ticket.
“Racial profiling, in this context, concerns the reasons for stopping a particular vehicle at a particular time, not whether the officer conducting the stop (or any other officer on the scene) is impolite. In the incident involving Rev. Moultrie, the officer in the body cam footage states that the reason for the stop was the driver’s failure to signal for a turn. Whether that justification is a pretext for racial discrimination is an issue separate and distinct from whether any officer displayed racial bias against Rev. Moultrie during the stop,” the NAACP statement reads in part.
Timmonsville Police Chief Billy Brown said the state trooper seen in the body camera footage didn’t speak to Moultrie.
“Moultrie is lying,” Brown told WMBF.
Timmonsville Councilman Curtis Harris, who is affiliated with the NAACP, said he does not believe Moultrie’s allegations “have any basis of truth in it.”
The Timmonsville community did not vote to have Moultrie lead the NAACP chapter, Harris said. Moultrie was appointed by South Carolina NAACP President Dwight C. James after the Timmonsville chapter became defunct.
Moultrie called for a boycott of The Robesonian and its advertisers for what they said was biased and degrading coverage of Robeson County sheriff candidate Ronnie Patterson.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected] The Florence (S.C.) Morning News contributed to this report.