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Woman who filmed Florida police officer drawing gun during pullover arrested after failing to return vehicle

Jul 31, 2020
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A woman who last month filmed a Florida police officer drawing his weapon during a pullover was arrested for failing to return the car seen in that viral video, authorities said Friday.

Joneshia Wilkerson, 23, was arrested Tuesday and booked on suspicion of failure to return a leased vehicle and fraudulent use of a credit card, according to to a Pinellas County Sheriff’s statement.

She rented a Nissan Altima on June 2 from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and it was due back on June 6, the sheriff’s office said.

“The credit card number Wilkerson used belonged to a victim in Indiana who was still in possession of their original card,” according to the sheriff’s statement.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Wilkerson took cell phone video of a Tampa police officer pulling her over on June 18 and she posted that footage on June 22.” data-reactid=”21″>Wilkerson took cell phone video of a Tampa police officer pulling her over on June 18 and she posted that footage on June 22.

The officer immediately drew a weapon, took cover behind his car door and told the driver and passenger to freeze and show their hands, the video showed. He told Wilkerson that the Altima had been reported stolen.

Backup arrived in about five minutes before the officer holstered his weapon. Wilkerson and her passenger were then handcuffed and put in the back of a police car, footage showed.

The Altima had been reported stolen by Hertz rental car and Tampa police impounded the vehicle for the ongoing Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigation, both agencies said at the time.

Wilkerson, a member of U.S. Army, had just returned from deployment and had borrowed the car from an acquaintance, the Tampa Police Department said in a statement.

Wilkerson and her passenger were later released with no charges, and Wilkerson denied knowing anything about the history of the car or the investigation into it being stolen.

“At that time, the investigation in Pinellas County had not been” completed, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Dep. Travis Sibley told NBC News on Friday, saying Tampa police were right not to arrest Wilkerson at that time.

“She told Tampa officers it was a girlfriend’s vehicle and there was no way to tell one way or another.”

Wilkerson could not be immediately reached for comment at two publicly listed for phone numbers for her on Friday.

And a lawyer — who had represented Wilkerson in earlier cases — said Friday that he hadn’t been contacted by her on rental car matter. He declined comment.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Interactions between police and Black suspects have been under increasing scrutiny since the death of George Floyd. The deadly encounter in Minneapolis has sparked worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.” data-reactid=”31″>Interactions between police and Black suspects have been under increasing scrutiny since the death of George Floyd. The deadly encounter in Minneapolis has sparked worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.

“I want the public to know that I used to see things like this all the time on TV. I never expected someone like me would be put in this position,” Wilkerson, who is African American, told NBC News on June 22. “I feel like something needs to happen to the Tampa PD officer who held that gun on me for four minutes. The Tampa PD, they are bullies, and the way they treat people is bad.”

At the time, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said suspects in stolen vehicle cases could be violent and his officer was right to pull his weapon.

“Stolen cars are quite often used … to do a different type of crime whether you’re going to rob someone, break into houses, it usually leads to more crime, other crimes,” Dugan told reporters on June 22. “That’s why we take such caution when it comes to stolen cars.”

Former NYPD Sgt. Joe Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, viewed the body camera footage and praised both the officer and Wilkerson, saying they each acted appropriately.

“The cop remained cool and the passenger remained cool,” Giacalone told NBC News on June 22. “I wish it always ended like this, nobody in the end being hurt.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This story has been updated with new information.” data-reactid=”37″>This story has been updated with new information.

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