A Southern California woman filed a complaint after a sheriff’s deputy reportedly snatched out some of her hair during an Oct. 1 traffic stop near San Diego.
Shynita Phillips Abu told reporters at an Oct. 5 news conference that on Oct. she was “jamming to music” after leaving a post office in the San Diego suburb of Lakeside when San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy David Lovejoy began to follow her. When he pulled her over on state Route 67, Lovejoy told Phillips-Abu her third brake light was out.
“He came up to my window, and I rolled my window down, and he told me I’m pulling you over because you have a third brake light out,” Phillips Abu said at the news conference, according to local station ABC10. “I asked the officer, what is a third brake light? I’ve never heard of a third brake light before, and I did inform him that everything works on my vehicle.”
Phillips Abu alleges Lovejoy became upset after she took a phone call during their encounter.
“That’s when Lovejoy went belligerent,” she recalled. “He started to yell, ‘Get off the phone.’ He slapped the phone out of my hand and pulled me by my hair and yanked me out of the car.”
Phillips Abu, who says she began recording the encounter when the deputy’s demeanor changed, was snatched out of the car, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a squad car. While she was in custody, the deputies searched her car.
“Seven to eight other cop cars on 67 south, they are blocking the freeway as if I had a dead body and drugs in my car,” she shared. “They went into my car, searched my vehicle, did not find anything.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports she was eventually taken to a local jail but not booked because of “because of COVID-19 booking restrictions,” according to the department’s statement. However, the newspaper reviewed a “certificate of release” in connection with the Phillips Abu’s detention and found it shows a deputy indicated there was no ground to hold her.
“I had my hands behind my back for 6 hours straight,” Phillips Abu said. “My body was so swollen and bruised.”
Photos given to FOX5 showed patches of missing hair in her scalp. Phillips Abu also had bruising on her arm. During the news conference, she showed reported three braids Lovejoy allegedly ripped from her head.
Phillips Abu told the reporters Lovejoy was wearing a body camera during the incident. She wants the police department to release the footage and hold the deputy accountable.
“It was uncalled for, it was abuse of power, [and] it was racially [motivated],” she said during the news conference.
San Diego Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ricardo Lopez said in a statement the incident is under investigation.
“We are aware of the incident. We have initiated an investigation into the matter,” the representative said. “We have concerns but want to gather all the facts before coming to a conclusion.”