Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart responds to a recent story reported by WTXL Channel 27 Insiders that was heavily edited and did not provide the factual details.
On Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 at 10:15 a.m., Sheriff’s deputies observed two vehicles appearing to be traveling together commit several traffic violations while traveling on I-10. One officer conducted a traffic stop on a red 2015 Chevrolet while traveling on I-10 as the second officer pulled over awaiting the second car, silver Audi, to pass by. However, the silver Audi chose to stop as the red Chevrolet was being pulled over by the officers. As Officer Haskell awaited the silver Audi to reach his location, he monitored radio traffic relating to the red Chevrolet as being a reported stolen vehicle. Officer Haskell immediately relocated to the location of the silver Audi and approached the driver.
Officer Haskell noted the silver Audi was occupied by two people and requested the driver provide her driver’s license. The driver inquired as to why the officer needed her license and Officer Haskell explained he needed to identify her and further disclosed to the driver that she was traveling with a car that was reported stolen. The driver eventually provided her driver’s license and Officer Haskell identified her as Janetta Edwards, 24, of Tallahassee and further requested for Edwards to exit the car and step back to the rear with him. Edwards repeatedly refused to cooperate and exit the vehicle while at times attempting to put the car in drive to drive away and even rolled up the window on Officer Haskell. Officer Haskell further confirmed with adjacent officers involved in the traffic stop of the red Chevrolet that those occupants stated that they were traveling together, best friends and traveling to Edwards’s house in Tallahassee. Officer Haskell requested her to exit the vehicle for approximately 13 minutes while repeatedly informing her that she was under arrest for failure to follow the lawful commands and obstructing him from doing his duty. Edwards continued to resist and failed to exit the vehicle causing officers to use the necessary level of force to remove her from the vehicle. The passenger complied and exited the vehicle as requested.
An investigation into the traffic stop discovered marijuana, a handgun and hundreds of credit cards and ledgers of other people’s personal information. Accompanying the credit cards and ledgers were embossing machines and magnetic striping scanners commonly used to create fraudulent cards in other people’s names.
This type of criminal activity has become prevalent and officers immediately recognized the tremendous size of the fraudulent operation and requested federal agency assistance. All evidence relating to the identity theft and fraudulent credit cards was turned over to federal agencies in pursuit of federal charges. Officers frequently come across this type of activity and save hundreds of victims thousands of dollars while protecting their personal information.
Sheriff Stewart states that in no way was the incident racially motivated and in fact all other occupants within both vehicles were African American and were handled without any incident. The incident was simply officers performing their lawful duty and officers do have a legal right to request a driver to exit a vehicle. In this incident, officers offered too much time to have her comply with the lawful orders.
The aforementioned information was provided to WTXL Channel 27 prior to the insider report and unfortunately was not originally reported. WTXL Channel 27 has since reported the story again to include the facts and the video. This video clearly shows Officer Haskell attempting to have Edwards exit the vehicle for over 12 minutes.
Edwards was arrested and locally charged with resisting arrest without violence, posted bond and released.
The surveillance video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4c6Oh9a0pU&feature=player_embedded. Due to pending Federal charges the remainder of the video and photographs are not available.
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1. Janetta Edwards