A Black Washington University at St. Louis student said Missouri police officers “racially profiled” her and forced her to wait outside on a dark road for hours when they mistook her car for one reported stolen.
Although Webster Groves police have disputed some of her claims, a woman who goes by Tay Armani on social media is asking the public to call the police department and complain about the July 1 incident involving officers Christopher Golden, David Pouk, Carrie Gentile and Kendra Kaiser.
Armani said July 14 in a Facebook post that she was driving through the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves with a friend when Golden pulled her over, banged on her back window and immediately asked her to turn off the car.
“He initially refused to tell us why we were being pulled over,” Armani said. “Eventually, he stated it was because my car was reported stolen, which it wasn’t.”
She said she gave the officer identification papers for the vehicle, but Golden asked her to get out of the car because the documents “meant nothing” to him.
When she did not get out of the car, Golden called for backup, and four police officers, one of them Golden’s superior, arrived on the scene, Armani said.
At that point, she said Golden told her: “My superior is going to be way worse than I am.”
“He also said that if we didn’t get out of the car right then, he was going to bust my car windows out and pull us out of the car,” Armani said. “I felt so unsafe because he continuously made threats to us.”
She also said when she and her friend, another Black woman, told officers they were being treated unfairly, another officer on the scene, Poulk, told the pair that if they “didn’t like it then we could leave St. Louis.”
Armani said two other backup officers, Gentilly and an unidentified woman, told Armani that Golden had every right to do what he did and should have pulled the pair out at gunpoint.
Armani said she and her friend eventually got out of the car and officers had them “standing in the middle of a dark road for almost two hours.”
She was pulled over at 11:50 p.m., and they didn’t leave until after 2 a.m., Armani said.
“Of course it turned out that they misread my license plate and had my car confused with another car,” Armani said.
Still, she was given a ticket and told to appear in court.
“No apology was issued or any type of remorse,” Armani said. “I felt humiliated, helpless, and drained. I couldn’t even go to work the next day, and I’ve never missed work before.”
She asked for people to call the East Central Dispatch Center at (314) 645-3000 to leave complaints about the involved officers “for their extremely aggressive and error-prone actions.”
Webster Groves police Capt. Stephen Spear disputed some of Armani’s claims at a Webster Groves City Council meeting July 16, according to the Webster-Kirkwood Times.
“The stop was a result of a patrol officer being alerted to a wanted stolen vehicle by an automated license plate reader,” Spear told the Times. “That entry was made by the University City Police Department.”
Spear also told the news outlet that “the driver and passenger initially refused to exit their vehicle.”
“After they exited, officers contacted the University City Police Department and determined that the vehicle was not stolen, but had been illegally taken from a tow yard without paying the tow fee,” Spear said.
Spear told the Times a responding University City police officer issued a summons to the vehicle’s owner for “theft of services and she was released, although she could have been arrested.”
Spear said the stop took an hour and 22 minutes and that Armani and her friend were asked to exit the car due to a concern for their safety and because the officer was alone.
It’s the department’s policy to check the vehicle for weapons, Spear told the Times. He also denied Armani’s claim that officers threatened her and her friend.
Webster Groves police Chief Dale Curtis said although the department has not received any formal complaints from the driver or the passenger, authorities investigated the incident anyway.
“The investigation determined that no laws, policies or procedures were violated, that our officers acted appropriately for the circumstances and their actions were justified,” Curtis said in an email to Atlanta Black Star Monday. “Our investigation did not extend to any of the conduct or actions by the University City Police Department as we have no authority over that agency.”