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Black woman says San Diego County deputy yanked her out of car during traffic stop

Shynita Phillips Abu, alongside activists and community members, speaks at a news conference.
Shynita Phillips Abu speaks Monday in front of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to address a traffic stop in which she says a deputy yanked her out of her car.
(David Hernandez / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The woman lodged a complaint Monday, alleging that a deputy used excessive force, pulling braids out of her scalp and bruising her arm.

A woman lodged a complaint against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, alleging that a deputy used excessive force when he yanked her out of her car, pulling her hair and arm, during a traffic stop last week in the Lakeside area of San Diego County.

“It was uncalled for, it was abuse of power, [and] it was racially [motivated],” Shynita Phillips Abu, who is Black, said during a news conference outside the department’s headquarters in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood of San Diego.

Surrounded by two dozen activists and community members, she held braids she said the deputy had pulled out of her scalp and showed bruises on her arm that she said stemmed from the encounter Thursday.

“We are aware of the allegations and are looking into the matter,” Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ricardo Lopez said. The deputy remained assigned to the sheriff’s Lakeside substation as of Monday.

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Abu said she had been “jamming to music” in her car after a trip to a post office when the deputy began following her just before 4 p.m. He pulled her over on State Route 67, telling her that her car’s third brake light was not working, Abu said.

Lopez confirmed that was the reason the deputy stopped Abu.

Abu disputed the reason for the traffic stop Monday, saying the light was working when she picked up her car from an impound lot.

New California data show law enforcement is more likely to stop and search black drivers than white motorists.

Abu said the deputy became “belligerent” after she started recording the encounter on her cellphone for her safety. She said the deputy ordered her to “get the [expletive] out of the car.” She asked him to call his supervisor.

In a statement, Lopez said Abu refused to provide her driver’s license or identify herself to the deputy.

He detained her on suspicion of resisting arrest and refusing to sign a citation, Lopez said.

The deputy tried to book her into Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee but ultimately released her from custody about six hours later. He dropped her off at a trolley station, she said.

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Lopez said Abu was not jailed “because of COVID-19 booking restrictions.”

A “certificate of release,” reviewed by the San Diego Union-Tribune, showed a deputy — whose signature is not legible — indicated there were insufficient grounds for booking charges.

Abu and others say they want the deputy to be placed on administrative leave while the Sheriff’s Department investigates the complaint. They also called on the department to release any video of the encounter from the deputy’s body-worn camera.

“We are tired of excessive force and no accountability,” activist Tasha Williamson said. “We are not anti-police. We are anti-rogue officers.”

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Abu said the encounter helped her understand “exactly what happened to Sandra Bland,” a 28-year-old Black woman who was pulled over by a state trooper in Texas over an alleged traffic violation in July 2015. Bland, who recorded the encounter on her cellphone as it turned contentious, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting the state trooper and was found hanging in her jail cell three days later.

“It’s time to end this now,” Abu said just before she walked into the Sheriff’s Department headquarters to file the complaint.


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