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On Wednesday, April 20, the Delaware State University (DSU) women’s lacrosse team was headed home after a game in Florida. The bus transporting the team was stopped on I-95 in Liberty County, Georgia by local deputies for allegedly traveling illegally in the left lane. But people only largely became aware of the traffic stop because the DSU student newspaper shared an article and a video of the incident three weeks after it occurred (May 4).

Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman held a conference on Tuesday, May 10 and said no persons nor property was searched. However, the girls claimed that the police were lying and said they were targeted because there were mostly Black women on the bus. And the released video of the search contradicts a number of statements made by Sheriff Bowman, showing officers actually going through the ladies’ personal items.

Furthermore, comments made by some of the officers were racial in tone, prompting Delaware officials to demand an investigation about why it really happened, to address Bowman’s falsehoods, and why it took so long to be acknowledged by law enforcement in the first place. (Sheriff Bowman later said he misspoke and meant to say that none of the women’s persons were searched but acknowledged he and his deputies “could have done things a lot better.”)

“It’s a bunch of dang schoolgirls on the bus. There’s probably some weed,” one of Sheriff Bowman’s deputies was caught saying on tape.

“I’m not looking for a little bit of marijuana,” another deputy allegedly told the women, “but I’m pretty sure your guys’s (sic) chaperones are probably going to be disappointed if, uh, we find it.”

“Sheriff Bowman insists that personal items were not searched; the video clearly shows officers searching toiletries and clothes, and even cutting open a family graduation gift. Sheriff Bowman said the officers were unaware of the nature of the passengers on the bus,” said Dr. Tony Allen, DSU president, in an issued statement.

“[T]he audio clearly demonstrates that the officers were aware both that this was a busload of ‘schoolgirls,’ and that they did not expect to find anything other than marijuana, which the officer who entered the bus said they were not looking for,” Dr. Allen continued. “It has become abundantly more clear that this incident must be investigated by objective, external authorities. We continue to push forward toward that objective.”

Allen did admit DSU held off on making any premature statement on the situation until the school “understood (their) legal recourse,” but he added that “the merits of this particular situation seem to speak in [DSU’s] favor.”

Kathy Jennings, Delaware Attorney General, wrote a letter to Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, requesting that “a thorough vetting and appropriate action” be taken with regard to incident.

“By all accounts these young women represented their school and our state with class – and they were rewarded with a questionable-at-best search through their belongings in an effort to find contraband that did not exist,” Jennings wrote. “Not only did the deputies find nothing illegal in the bags; they did not issue a single ticket for the alleged traffic infraction.”

The Delaware State NAACP Conference of Branches has also requested an investigation into situation, saying it was  “concerned that this incident took place on April 20, 2022, but it was not made public until it was reported in the student newspaper.”

Richard Smith, president of the Delaware NAACP, said, “The NAACP subscribes to the theorem that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ In that regard, the responsibility to protect students should not be abdicated to the students themselves.”

Watch the video above and tell us what you think.