HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Only on 10, a bodycam video shows a 2022 traffic stop in Hampton that led to a Phoebus High School teacher being put in handcuffs at gunpoint.
10 On Your Side’s Julie Millet first told you about math teacher Jeffrey Smith in March 2022.
One month before Smith’s story aired, on Valentine’s Day, he was pulled over on his way to work. A Hampton police officer ran Smith’s plates, which came up stolen and initiated a traffic stop.
The entire interaction happened over the course of 15 minutes — but not before Smith’s students watched him shed his jacket and sweater, have his pockets searched and was put in handcuffs in what police considered a “high-risk” traffic stop.
The series of clips from several officers’ body cameras show Smith being pulled over by Officer L. De Aguiar, told to throw his keys out the window, step out of the car with his hands up and remove his jacket and sweater before being handcuffed – all while an officer points a gun at him. At this point his license and registration have not been looked at by police.
In the footage, Smith complies with every command.
“I ain’t got no beef with nobody. I ain’t mad, I ain’t upset. I just need to get to work,” Smith told officers while handcuffed.
Cpl. J. Jansson asks Smith if he ever reported his car as stolen or had it towed in the past.
Smith said no.
Officer De Aguiar runs a check on Smith’s license and is told by dispatch that the car is not stolen.
Cpl. Jansson instructs a third officer to remove the handcuffs from Smith.
Smith is handed his keys and is told he’s free to go. An HPD shift sergeant, Sgt. Crowder, approaches Smith.
“I don’t know why. The officer didn’t know either and so we’re going to try to get to the bottom of it from our end. I just, I feel bad because I mean 99 times out of 100 this system is right and that one time,” Sgt. Crowder tells Smith.
Smith and De Aguiar shake hands as the officer apologizes for the mix-up.
“I was in the corner and he drove looking at me, so I checked and then it came back as stolen,” Officer De Aguiar stated.
Officer De Aguiar tells the other officers on scene after the interaction that he doesn’t trust Flock.
“Just fix it. Just fix it. It’s not about trusting. It’s a machine. There is no right or wrong. It looks for a series of numbers,” said Cpl. Jansson.
Later that day, Smith called the Hampton Police Division and spoke with Sgt. Crowder.
“What I’m doing right now with Officer De Aguiar, we’re actually digging into the middle trying to figure out how this happened and why it happened. He’s holding you at gunpoint over a vehicle that belonged to you, I’ve got to figure out how we got to that point,” the sergeant told Smith.
In the clip recorded at police headquarters, Smith stated he just wanted answers.
“I was put in a position where, if I did anything wrong, I could have been destroyed and taken away,” Smith said. “I didn’t do anything wrong, and then as a result, I’m put in a position where everybody sees me locked up as if I had done something wrong – the way I was handled as if I had done something wrong and I was trying to figure out what procedures are in place to allow police to treat me that way.”
Sgt. Crowder responded to Smith.
“I have to examine two pieces of this,” Sgt. Crowder said. “The first is how we got to that to begin with, right? How did we get to where a vehicle that is not stolen is coming back as a stolen vehicle which causes the officer to respond in a certain way. Did he operate appropriately with that understanding and I don’t know that either.”
Following the incident, then-Hampton Police Chief Mark Talbot visited the Smith family and apologized, saying there was room for improvement and the division would take steps to ensure it didn’t happen again.
Since the incident, Smith has retained a lawyer and has gone to counseling.
A Hampton police spokesperson sent us the following:
“The Hampton Police Division continues to utilize Flock Safety as a valuable and trusted resource to keep our community safe. As a point of clarification, there was no error or misread on behalf of the Flock system.”