A Missouri sheriff called out a newspaper columnist for sensationalizing a routine traffic stop.
Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey fired back at Columbia Daily Tribune’s now suspended columnist Bill Clark after a June 30 opinion piece in which Clark declared he was lucky he didn’t “get shot” and now knew how “minority motorists” must feel when getting pulled over by police.
“I’m lucky I didn’t get shot,” Clark, an 84-year-old white man,wrote. “Sirens wailed and when I stopped, two officers were out of the sheriff’s vehicle. When I reached over to turn off the radio and then take my wallet out of my pocket to produce the driver’s license and insurance card, I realized my hands were not at the top of my steering wheel. Danger lurked and official arrogance was to follow.”
Clark claimed his life “seemed to be in danger” and that his “rear bumper full of liberal bumper stickers” and his aging car were probably a tip-off for police that he was an “aging hippie with a weed habit.”
“I fully understand how a person can lose their respect for law officers,” Clarke wrote. “When you are in the shoes of the minority, you learn a lot more about their journey.”
But Carey refuted the claims made by Clark in his column, contacting the newspaper’s managing editor, Charles Westmoreland, to expose the lies in the story. Carey also released the 11-minute dashcam video and wrote an essay of his own to set the record straight.
The deputy noted that he had reached out to Clark before writing his story “out of respect” which, he added was “something he did not show me or our department before writing his column. ”
“In his column he indicates, ‘I’m lucky I didn’t get shot’. There is never a weapon drawn, the deputies don’t take a position of cover, there are no loud verbal commands, no panic or anything else for that matter by the deputies. Would you agree this is sensationalism at its best? I say yes!” Carey wrote.
“I kept waiting for the ‘official arrogance’ that Ol’ Clark wrote about, but I only observed a professional young deputy do exactly what I expect her to do; her job in a manner consistent to our motto,” Carey continued.
He pointed out that the female deputy, who has been with the department for three years, is also a member of the military and had just returned from a 10-month deployment overseas. The accompanying male deputy was in training.
Carey continued his “play-by-play” account of what transpired at the traffic stop as seen in the video footage, noting that, contrary to Clark’s claims of “official arrogance,” the motorist was “addressed as sir a number of times and thank you was expressed at least twice” by the officer.
“The deputy finishes her contact by telling Ol’ Clark to drive safely and she then thanks him. The nerve of law enforcement these days!” Carey wrote. “Both deputies walk back to the patrol vehicle and again no inappropriate conversation, no derogatory comments about Ol’ Clark, no laughing or joking, just professional conduct.”
Clark was suspended indefinitely, according to a response by the publication’s managing editor on Thursday.
“In the video I saw two professional deputies performing their job by the book, and a somewhat confused and irritated motorist, unaware of what he had done to draw the attention of local law enforcement,” Westmoreland wrote. “It certainly wasn’t worth writing a scathing column about, and the Tribune should not have published it. For that I apologize to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and readers who feel they were misled by Clark’s column.”
Saturday’s edition of the newspaper will include an apology from Clark, Westmoreland announced.
“I can’t unpublish Clark’s column, but I will rebuke it,” he wrote. “I personally don’t believe Clark was threatened by the deputies in any way, but I wasn’t inside his head and can’t say he didn’t feel threatened. I saw a deputy standing behind the car with his hands on his hips. Clark saw a deputy in his rearview mirror with his right hand next to his firearm. Perspectives differ from one person to the next.”
Carey concluded his piece by noting he was “not going to say Ol’ Clark didn’t tell the truth in his column, but I will stand firm on the fact that it didn’t happen the way he said it did.”
“In today’s society we have an abundance of outlets for anyone to say anything, whether it is accurate or not. There is no controlling it and rarely does anyone challenge it, as it seems like a losing battle,” he wrote. “What happened to integrity, as I am afraid it is becoming a thing of the past?”
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