A Black man in California bucked conventional wisdom to surprise his girlfriend with his marriage proposal over the weekend. In spite of, or because of, the too-many-to-count incidents of police violence against Black people, Princeton Jones enlisted the help of a local cop while popping the question.
But it was how he proposed that raised eyebrows.
Jones and Jamicia Johnson were on their way to a family gathering when red and blue flashing lights appeared in their rearview mirror in the town of Hansford on Friday. Something like this may instantly provoke the distressingly familiar imagery of racial profiling, particularly to Black drivers, on this occasion Jones was filled with a different kind of anxiety.
Body camera footage showed Hansford Police Officer Mark Carillo’s asking Jones, who pulled over, to step out of the car while Johnson looked on with a helplessness and confusion all too familiar to Black drivers and passengers during a police stop.
“And I’m like, oh my God, what the heck is going on? What did he do?” Johnson recalled.
Carillo had Jones against the side of his car with his hands behind his back as family members began to come outside.
But when Johnson got out of the car, instead of seeing her boyfriend in handcuffs, he got down on one knee and proposed. Johnson happily accepted and family began to cheer and thank the officers for their part in the surprise.
Earlier, Jones had approached Carillo to aid and abet his proposal.
“We devised a little plan and I told him, ‘Hey, I’ll pull you over,’ and he goes ‘Well I have really loud music in my car I can bump my music,’” Carillo told local a news station on Saturday.
Choosing to stage a racial profiling traffic stop was an interesting way to propose given how stories about people like Philando Castile, who was killed in July 2016 during a traffic stop with his girlfriend and her child in the car, don’t end nearly as well, to put it mildly. Sandra Bland died in police custody in July 2015 following what should have been a routine traffic stop.
According to a 2018 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black drivers are 9.8 percent more likely to be pulled over by police. Mapping Police Violence has also reported that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police and 13 of the 100 largest U.S. cities have police departments that kill Black men at higher rates. Hansford is just hours north of several California cities that are a part of that list, which include Anaheim, Riverside and Glendale.