Prosecutors dropped the charges against a Black woman who was forcibly removed from her car during a March 6 traffic stop in Alexandria, Virginia, according to NBC News.
Juanisha Brooks, the victim, was on her way home from celebrating her sister’s 37th birthday when she was pulled over on I-495 by Virginia State Trooper Robert G. Hindenlang. Brooks told the outlet she saw emergency lights in her rearview window and pulled to the side of the road to get out of the way, but little did she know she was the intended target of the stop.
During the encounter captured on dash cam video, Hindenlang asks Brooks to exit the vehicle multiple times without informing her of the offense.
After Brooks inquires about the stop one last time, Hindenlang says, “Can you step outside and I’ll show you.”
In response, Brooks tells Hindenlang that she does not want to exit her vehicle, to which the officer unlocks her car door, drags her from the vehicle and handcuffs her. She attempts to reach for her cell phone in order to record the moment, but it falls to the ground.
Brooks, who is also employed by the Defense Department, said the experience mortified her into believing she may end up as another name in the Black Lives Matter movement after she dropped her cell phone.
“That was my lifeline to record what was happening. When that dropped, I really became fearful for my life and truly thought I was going to die,” she said. “I felt so helpless. All I could think about was Sandra Bland and Philando Castile.”
“I always thought police were there to serve and protect. But now, I don’t believe that,” she continued. “Every instance where I could have been protected, he chose to harm.”
After refusing a breathalyzer test, Hindelang warned Brooks that she would be charged with driving under the influence. After she was taken to jail, she was booked on misdemeanor eluding, obstruction of justice, reckless driving and failing to have headlights on, even though a breathalyzer test which showed her blood alcohol level was at 0.0.
On April 16 Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano dropped the charges after Brooks’ attorney showed him video of the dash cam footage. Descano concluded that the State Troopers conducted the stop “without proper legal bias,” and called for an internal investigation into the incident.
Brooks told the outlet that she suffered from physical injuries and feared that the incident could have affected her job stability. She has also paid thousands of dollars for legal representation.
“I haven’t slept a full night since March. Even last night, I had nightmares about the police,” she said. “All I can replay is the incident re-happening.”
A spokesperson for the Virginia State Police argued that Hindenlang and the accompanying troopers pulled Brooks over for driving without the proper lights and making unsafe lane changes, suggesting that their conclusions led them to believe she was intoxicated. Descano however said that after viewing the footage, he found none of the traffic statues were violated.
Experts who spoke with NBC News discussed the dangers of these types of interactions, categorized as pretextual traffic stops, which routinely target Black and brown community members.