HOLMBERG: Man’s rights violated during vehicle search?

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Darryl A. Winston thought the Richmond officer who pulled him over for failing to use his turn signal on July 5 was mistaken.

But his troubles were just beginning.

It was around noon on that blistering hot day right after the fourth of July. The stop occurred at the market on Idlewood Avenue in Oregon Hill.

Winston had been visiting a friend in the adjoining Randolph neighborhood. He was driving a tricked-out 2004 BMW 740.

While the initial officer was checking his paperwork, a second officer told Winston he detected the odor of marijuana. Winston said he told him there’s no way that could be true.

“He asked could he search my vehicle,” Winston said. “I told him no.”

He said his paperwork was in order and they had no right to search the car he was driving.

“’You pulled me over for improper turn signals,’” Winston recalled telling the officer. “’Give me my ticket and I’ll be on my way. He told me, sit tight.”

About 15 minutes later, a K-9 officer and a drug-sniffing dog arrived.

Winston said he was ordered to step out of vehicle. “That’s when they snatched me, grabbed me, threw me against the police car, very aggressively.”

Code Womack’s house backs right up to the market. He had just arrived home at that point, and watched from his back door.

“Shoot, it was about 100, 100-plus outside,” Womack said. “They had this guy handcuffed. There was at least three or four police cars.”

“They said the dog alerted on the car,” Winston said. “And I said, ‘the dog alerted on my vehicle? What did he alert to?’ And they didn’t answer.”

“They searched his whole car,” Womack said. “They ripped it apart.”

“103 degree temperature,” Winston said. “I was sweating. And my sweat was running down my eyes. My eyes were burning.”

“He was dripping sweat,” Womack said. “His hands were behind his back, cuffed, so he couldn’t even wipe the sweat off his face.”

“They ripped the air ducts out” while searching for whatever they were looking for, Winston said. “They broke the center console.”

Darryl, who has his own tow business, said the stop took close to an hour. The whole time, people were coming in and out of the store, staring.

The officers found nothing, Winston said. He believes his rights were violated. He also believes it’s a case of profiling – black man in a trick Beemer with a sound system. The officer who made the initial stop is African-American.

Richmond police spokesman Gene Lepley said RPD’s internal affairs is investigating Winston’s complaint, and they can’t comment until that is completed.

Code Womack, who was located when CBS 6 went door-to-door to find potential witnesses, was surprised by the way the stop ended, given the strength of the police presence and the vigorousness of the search.

“I thought it was a big-time drug bust,” he said, “And they ended up letting the guy go. I was like, ‘what the heck man?’ Kind of a big deal to harass somebody like that, for no reason.”