A traffic stop and search from two years ago in the state of Texas in the United States is coming back to haunt three police officers, because dashcam footage from the cars from one of the cops has emerged online, showing the harrowing ordeal of the student they had stopped.
The video shows the then 21-year-old woman being made to lie on her stomach with her head under her car, her pants pulled off in full public view and the three policemen subjecting her to an 11-minute vaginal search.
The "search" was ostensibly to find marijuana, which the cops said they had smelt in the car. They would eventually arrest the student for resisting arrest and possession of 0.02 ounces — 0.6 gram — of marijuana.
'Rape by cop'
The victim was in a parking lot on the night of June 20, 2015, when three policemen from Harris County in Texas stopped her on the road for allegedly running a stop sign. Apparently, the cops were looking to incriminate her for something or the other.
The victim's attorney Sam Cammack told a US news channel: "One of the officers on the tape, he was talking to a passenger who was already in custody in the officer's car and you could hear him telling that individual 'Oh we are going to find something, even if we have to put our hands on her'."
The policemen searched the student's car and her clothes for the marijuana they were looking for, but found nothing. They then focused their attention on the victim.
The dashcam footage from one of the police cars, which has come out only now, shows them making the student lie on her stomach with her head under her car — something that would prevent her from rolling over.
The footage then shows the officers stripping her from the waist down in full public view and subjecting her to a cavity search for 11 minutes before arresting her on charges of possession of less than a gram of marijuana and for resisting arrest. The victim would later go on to describe it as "rape by cop."
Since the incident, charges against two of the policemen have been dropped, while the third has not even been indicted for any wrongdoing. This was one of the biggest reasons behind the outcry that followed the release of the video footage of the incident over the past couple of days.
"I feel like they sexually assaulted me! I really do. I feel disgusted, downgraded, humiliated," the victim has been quoted by some sources as saying. The cops, it may be noted here, had said in their statement earlier that she had consented to the cavity search.
Harris County prosecutor Natasha Sinclair said of the incident: "No one in this office stands by the search the way it was conducted. No one condones that. No one thinks it's appropriate. It should not have happened."
Her office is now apparently looking to file fresh charges against the three policemen based on fresh evidence from the dashcam footage. The victim, meanwhile, has said she hopes a prosecutor from outside the Harris County law enforcement can be brought in to argue her case.