My Sandra Bland Story

College brought about many changes in my attitude and approach to life. On the inside I was a changed man, but my outward appearance still reflected my urban upbringing. As a result, I willingly opened myself up to racial discrimination.

My senior year in college and two weeks before the NFL draft, I was on my way to pick up a young lady I recently met for a date. She lived in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. Being from the south side, I was not too familiar with the area. I stayed on the phone with her, as she directed me to her place (at the time talking on your cell phone and driving was perfectly legal). Once I pulled up outside, she waved to me from the window. We got off the phone and I waited for her to come outside. As I was waiting, a police car pulled up behind me, so I quickly pulled over to the shoulder, to get out of their way. They pulled off and I continued to wait. Shortly after, the young lady came out and got in the car. Before I could put the car in gear, the same police car pulled up behind me again and put their lights on. I was driving my recently purchased '87 Chevy Monte Carlo, Luxury Sport. It was an early graduation gift to myself. It was gray with chrome trimming. I added a dual exhaust, plus a 3 inch anterior lift, so my 20 inch [hundred spoke] rims could fit. It drew attention, but this was the first time from the police.

One of the officers' voices came over the loud speaker "Turn off the ignition!" so I turned the car off. Then, the officers proceeded to get out of their car. They were two white police officers, one male the other female. The female officer approached the driver side, while the male officer went around the back of the car to the passenger side. The female officer said, "Take the keys out of the ignition!" so I took the keys out and sat them on my console. She stepped closer to the window, then stuck her hand out and said, "Give me your keys!" I grabbed the keys and as I went to hand them to her, I thought of all the times I had heard on the news of people posing as cops, so I hesitated.

At this point, I still didn't know the reason why I was pulled over. I hadn't been pulled over much in the past, but I thought the standard procedure was to ask for your license and registration. Here I was preparing to show her my license and she's asking for the keys to my car. Something seemed wrong about this situation, so I froze. The officer said again, "Give me your keys!" I said, "Why" but she ignored me and said, "GIVE ME YOUR KEYS!" with more force in her voice. Since she ignored my question and I still wasn't sure what was going on, I said, "No." "Wrong answer" she replied. Then she snatched open my car door yelling, "Get the f**k out of the car" as she yanked me from my seat.

By this time, her partner had made his way around the front of the car to the driver side to provide assistance. They threw me up against my car and started pulling my hands behind my back. Two weeks before the NFL draft, the last thing I needed was to be arrested. I tried to turn around and talk to the officers--"Why am I being handcuffed?"--but they would not answer me. In fact, when I tried to turn around, the female officer said, "'re trying to resist arrest?" as she began punching me in my lower back. It was like she wanted me to provoke her, so I relaxed and let them handcuff me.

At this point, I'm beyond pissed off, so when the officer tried to take my keys out of my hands after she cuffed me, I would not let them go. She cursed and continued to take cheap shots at me, but I would not let the keys go. Finally, she gave up and reached for my other hand, where I was carrying my cell phone. She pulled until she was finally able to pry it loose, then she cocked back, like her name was Brett Favre and launched my cell phone across the street. It shattered into pieces. They put me in the backseat of the squad car. I wasn't sure if I was going to jail, or if they were taking me to some dark alley to work me over.

I sat anxiously in the car while the police talked to my new friend. As I sat there, I couldn't help but think that this was racially motivated and somehow connected to the car I was driving and the way I was dressed--doo-rag on my head and all. The male officer came over and asked me for my identification. I told him it was in my wallet in the car. He retrieved it and came back over to the police car. As he flipped through my wallet, searching for my driver's license, he came across my college ID. He asked, "You're in school?" I said, "Yes, I'm a senior at Northwestern University." He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to, the look on his face said it all! I also explained to him that I was a NFL football prospect and that the draft was coming up soon. I wasn't looking for any trouble; I was just out on a date. And with that, like magic, the entire atmosphere changed. All of a sudden I became human. The officer asked me if the handcuffs were too tight. Then, he took them off and allowed me to go across the street and pick up my cell phone--or what was left of it.

As I picked up the pieces to my cell phone, the male officer came over and finally explained that I was receiving a citation for parking in a "No Park Zone," even though I was still sitting in my car with the ignition on and even though the only reason I pulled over was to get out of their way. The officer proceeded to give me advice, as to how to handle the ticket in court, and then he started asking me questions about football and the upcoming draft. I said, "With all due respect officer, can you please just give me my ticket, so I can get the hell out of here?" As I walked back to my car, he handed me my ticket and the female officer offered a few parting words of wisdom, "Next time, do what an officer tells you to do."

First thing in the morning, I called my agent and he helped me file a grievance against the two officers involved. Internal affairs conducted an investigation (complete with affidavits) and found no negligence on the part of the two officers. I was furious! I felt powerless. But at the time, I was too consumed with trying to make an NFL roster. I never filed an appeal.