DOVER, Del. - A traffic stop turned drug search has taken yet another turn amid accusations of racial profiling.
Delaware State University, a historically black college, will file a formal civil rights complaint against the Liberty County Sheriff's Department after the lacrosse team was stopped in Georgia, according to Tony Allen, the university's president.
Allen says the deputies performed a "constitutionally dubious stop and search" of the lacrosse team and their bus as they drove home on April 20.
The team was pulled over in Liberty County for an alleged minor traffic violation. Deputies then boarded the bus to announces they would be conducting a search.
"If there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now because if we find it, guess what? We’re not going to be able to help you," one deputy said.
Allen claims the stop and search was a violation of rights for every passenger on the bus, as well as the driver.
"Our first and most immediate concern was our students and coaches mental and physical well-being," he said.
Allen says he has been in contact with Liberty County's sheriff, whose recent comments have raised several questions.
Recently released body camera footage shows the deputies and drug-sniffing dogs searching the team's luggage and personal belongings. The footage appears to contradict the sheriff's statement that no personal belonging were searched during the stop.
A deputy is also heard saying, "It's a bunch of dang school girls on the bus, probably a bunch," during the 21-minute video.
Allen believes the incident raises serious constitutional and civil rights issues, however he says the sheriff disagrees.
"The video clearly shows the officers searching toiletries, clothes and opening a family graduation gift," he said. "It also raises a question about the conduct of both the dog handler and the officers who remained on the bus asking questions of our students."
The university president alleges that there was implicit racial bias during the "inappropriate" search.
"Even if they did not know who was on the bus at the time of the stop, there was great certainty who was on that bus once they boarded it," Allen said.
Allen went on to voice that even a minor traffic stop is cause for concern for Americans of color.
"In this instance, everyone came home safely, but you have all reported on instance that started innocuously and spiraled out of control," he said.
The university reportedly submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for body camera footage from each officer, as well as the paperwork for the incident, which expired Thursday. Allen says the university has not received a response from the sheriff's office.
Allen also addressed questions regarding the timing of their response, saying the university wanted to make sure their findings were "unassailable as possible."
No team member has reportedly filed any legal action in connection to the incident. However, the university says they have their support.
"The Attorney General's request and our complaint are first steps, but the bus driver, our coaches, and the students have their own options, and they are certainly exploring their own paths forward," Allen said. "We wholly support them."