A California police department is defending an officer who held a passenger in a vehicle stopped for speeding at gunpoint for more than nine minutes.
The car driver’s video of the July 26 incident, posted to Facebook on July 29, shows a Campbell Police Department officer pointing his handgun at the passenger in a vehicle stopped on the side of Highway 101.
The officer, who wasn’t identified, stopped the vehicle for exceeding 85 mph, police said in a statement. When the officer asked for “additional paperwork,” the passenger reached under his seat.
That was enough reason for the officer to draw his weapon and train it on the man, police said. The officer kept his gun pointed at the passenger while awaiting the arrival of backup officers, who got stuck in traffic, police said. The department said the officer was correct to hold the passenger at gunpoint for the extended period.
“We’re looking for the fucking paperwork, bro,” the passenger, who has not been identified, can be heard saying after the cop points the gun.
“I understand that,” the officer calmly tells him during the nine-minute video. “Don’t move, alright?”
After the officer tells the man to relax, the man tells him: “No, I’m not going to relax. Get the fucking gun off me.”
The female driver, who recorded the video, can be heard asking the officer: “Is that really necessary? His hands are both out.”
The officer tells the passenger: “Yeah, my gun’s out of my holster and pointed at you right now.” When the man asks why, the cop says, “I don’t appreciate you sticking your hands underneath the” seat.
The man tells the officer he was only reaching for vehicle registration paperwork. The cop says he sees a screwdriver.
The police department said the video showed only a “portion of the incident.” Five minutes before the recording, police body camera footage shows the officer having a “cordial” conversation with the vehicle occupants, police said.
“Unfortunately, the passenger’s unexpected movement towards the bottom of the seat, caused the officer to perceive a threat and draw his handgun,” the police statement said. “The officer requested additional officers respond to assist him so that he could safely resolve the situation.”
Campbell police Capt. Gary Berg told HuffPost that the passenger initially refused to identify himself to the officer before the officer explained he was being cited for a seat belt violation. He also said the passenger denied reaching below his seat, even though the officer saw him and had repeatedly asked him not to.
“If an officer tells you don’t reach under the seat, then don’t reach under the seat,” Berg said.
Berg said the gunpoint confrontation was a “horrible, unfortunate” situation. But he defended the officer, and explained that a “number of factors” led the officer to draw his gun. Berg cited a recent shooting of Las Vegas officers during a routine traffic stop as a possible additional reason for his colleague to draw the weapon.
“This video is a perfect example of why our officer chose to have his gun drawn until additional officers arrived,” Berg said. “It’s a tragic reality of the world we live in where officers are being attacked.”
Berg said his department has received numerous “irate phone calls” from citizens who saw the video, but stands behind its officer. Police declined to release the officer’s body camera footage.
“It is never a comfortable position to have a gun pointed at you, regardless of whether it is a police officer,” the department conceded in its statement.
The driver was given a ticket for speeding.
This article has been updated to include Berg’s comments.