Police department defends officer after viral video shows tense traffic stop

A police department outside San Jose, California, is defending the actions of an officer, who can be seen pointing his gun at a passenger for more than nine minutes in a cell phone video of a traffic stop that’s gone viral, evoking criticism from some viewers.

The unnamed motorcycle officer pulled the car over on July 28, the Mercury News reported last week. The video, which has been viewed nearly 2 million times, only shows part of the story, says Campbell Police Capt. Gary Berg.

“We are in a position to provide the context because we have reviewed the officer’s body-worn camera, which recorded the encounter in its entirety,” said Berg, adding that officials are trying to determine whether to release that body camera footage.

Berg says the officer pulled the vehicle over between San Jose and Morgan Hill because the driver was speeding. He said the first few minutes of the stop were “cordial.” The officer asked for license and registration, and the people in the car spent several minutes looking for the documentation.

When the officer went back to his motorcycle to write a ticket, the passenger reached under the seat, according to Berg. “Unfortunately, the passenger’s unexpected movement toward the bottom of the seat caused the officer to perceive a threat and draw his handgun,” he said.

The passenger tells the officer that he was looking for the documents as he holds his hands up. “We’re looking for the fuckin’ paperwork, bro,” he can be heard saying in the video.

“I understand that,” says the officer. “Don’t move.”

“Oh my god,” the passengers say, adding, “why are you still pointing that gun at me, bro?”

The officer tells the passenger to relax, and to keep his hands where he can see them. “I’m not relaxing,” the passenger said. “You’ve got a gun pointed at me, bro.”

The passenger keeps his hands out in front of him, but calls the officer several names while they wait for backup to arrive. After nine minutes and twenty seconds, backup arrives and the video cuts out.

Comments on Facebook were critical of both the passenger and the officer. Several comments pointed to the passenger’s language and lack of respect for the officer.

“A little excessive I think but who keeps their registration under the seat?” wrote one person.

“He needs to be fired,” wrote another person, echoing the sentiment of many commenters who felt the officer acted improperly.

Berg said the officer acted properly. “Our officers receive a tremendous amount of training on a consistent basis and that training is what dictates our response,” he said. “This is intended to protect our officers as well as those they come in contact with.”

Berg said another missing piece of context is what happened after the video ends. When backup arrived, things ended peacefully, and the officer explained his actions to the passenger.

“The passenger indicated he understood why it happened and actually apologized to the officer,” Berg said.

The driver was cited, and they went on their way.