As he was handcuffed by police during a traffic stop over not displaying a license plate, Davion Pringle called out to an unidentified bystander videotaping the encounter.
“This is literally why I come to a light area,” the 21-year-old Charlotte man said as officers, who had approached his vehicle with guns drawn and smashed his window, handcuffed him under the bright lights of a Harrisburg gas station.
He wondered aloud what would have happened if he’d pulled over in the dark.
Pringle has filed a complaint against Concord police for its conduct and that of the the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Department’s after his vehicle was stopped at a Shell gas station Aug. 27 in Harrisburg, just north of Stough Road on NC Highway 49.
The unidentified man can be heard behind the camera recording the incident and trying to calm the situation. The video was uploaded to Tiktok by a woman who identifies herself as Pringle’s aunt.
“Don’t do nothing, I got your back,” he called out to Pringle. “You should not pull your guns (officers), this is crazy.”
Full video of cops pulling my nephew out with guns drawn for no reason ##fyp
♬ original sound - Thea$onae
Officers say Pringle “jeopardized his own safety” by failing to stop for more than three miles after officers turned their lights on just before 11 p.m., changing lanes multiple times and appearing to reach under his seat during the stop at the gas station, according to a statement from Concord police.
“Pringle’s actions of refusing to pull over, reaching around and under his seat, and refusing to obey lawful, straightforward, and easily understandable directions escalated the situation to an unreasonable and unsafe level,” police said.
Pringle’s attorney calls the stop “a violent act of police misconduct,” saying in a statement to Charlotte television stations Pringle was looking for a well-lit place to pull over to ensure a safe interaction with police. He can be heard on video giving that explanation at the time of the arrest.
“If officers behaved this aggressively in a well-lit area with witnesses, how would they have reacted in an isolated and dimly lit area?” wrote Darlene Harris, managing attorney for Charlotte-based Oakhurst Legal Group.
Pringle had no outstanding warrants and police had no reason to think he was a danger to them, Harris said in a statement. She did not respond to requests for an interview from the Observer this week.
In response to Oakhurst Legal Group, Concord police said Pringle was “not targeted or singled out.”
“Mr. Pringle was operating a vehicle on a 4-lane divided state highway in violation of the law, and the officer was justified in pulling him over,” Concord police said. “Mr. Pringle had multiple opportunities to pull over to a safe, well-lit area. He chose not to do so.”
Concord police said the officer who pulled Pringle over did not know his race or gender at the time of the traffic stop.
Pringle was taken to the Cabarrus County jail and charged with misdemeanor resist delay obstruct and misdemeanor failure to stop for blue lights/siren, police said. He was given a warning for failing to display a registration plate and failing to carry vehicle insurance.
The Oakhurst law firm is also representing Pringle’s mother, Melissa Baxter, and Imani Grier, a passenger in the car during the stop.
Grier was handcuffed and briefly detained for two minutes “for officer safety reasons” during the stop, police said, but was not charged.
Baxter and Grier filed complaints against the Concord police, which are actively under investigation, a department spokeswoman said.
“The Concord Police Department takes all allegations of employee misconduct seriously. All complaints are subject to a thorough and rigorous investigative process,” the spokeswoman said.
Safety during police stops
Police contend Pringle’s delay in pulling over was one factor in their subsequent response at the gas station.
But advocates for police reform say there are many reasons people, especially if they are Black, feel unsafe during a traffic stop and seek a more visible location.
In Pringle’s case, the dark highway where officers first encountered him offered few witnesses, and he sought a more public location, according to his attorney.
In situations where there is not an obvious safe place to immediately stop, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles recommends drivers turn on their emergency flashers and reduce speed by about 10 mph to signal awareness of the officer.
If the car is unmarked and a driver doesn’t know if it’s a legitimate officer, the DMV states drivers can call 911 to report their name and location to verify before pulling over.
Drivers are encouraged to report an officer’s behavior if they believe it was inappropriate.
”We’ve all been taught that if you don’t feel safe pulling over that you can pull over into a safe location,” said Kristie Puckett-Williams, who manages the ACLU of North Carolina’s statewide Campaign for Smart Justice.
“He did that — a well-lit spot — and despite the amount of cameras and the bystanders, the police still behaved that way.”
She said drivers should be able to stop in an area where they feel comfortable.
“Police don’t get to determine what’s the safe location because safe is subjective,” she said. “What may appear to be safe to a police officer may not be safe to me.”
Puckett-Williams said she struggled to get through the video, having seen so many others that end with police killings, often of Black men.
She said drivers can avoid having expired plates or lapsed insurance to decrease the chances of police interaction, but said the onus is on the police who initiate contact to keep situations from escalating.
Mbye Njie, founder of the Legal Equalizer app, said he understands Pringle’s fear and wanting to pull over to a well-lit spot, because he’s been in a similar situation and did the same thing.
“Even when you’re afraid, you want to be in a place with eyewitnesses that can have your safety in mind as well,” he said.
Njie said incidents like this are why he created Legal Equalizer, a phone app that records and livestreams interactions with police and immigration authorities.
Njie suggests drivers put on their hazard lights so police officers know their intention is to find a well-lit area and not to get away.
Concord police and the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office should understand why people are so afraid and want to drive three miles to a well-lit area, Njie said.
Although there’s a clip of the incident on social media, Njie said he would like to see the full dash cam footage (which only a judge can order released in North Carolina) to determine if Pringle did drive past several well-lit areas before stopping at the Shell gas station. The police’s definition of “well-lit” places could’ve been alone on the side of the road, he said.
“If they would release their full dash cam video and be completely transparent, then I think that would solve a lot of the issues,” he said. “I do appreciate the fact that nobody was hurt.”