Traffic Stop Could Land Highway Patrol in Court

8:37 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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Image still from a traffic stop involving Catherine Newkirk and State Patrolman James Enzor on Oct. 14, 2012.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The State Highway Patrol could be facing a day in court.

It all stems from a traffic stop in Florence County last October.

Catherine Newkirk says the color of her skin motivated a traffic stop along Interstate 95 in October 14, 2012, for speeding with then Lance Corporal James Enzor.

"I did say to him that I thought there was some racial profiling going on, was racially motivated and when I said that he got extremely mad, just kind of went berserk," said Newkirk.

She and her husband Jerome were both arrested during the stop. Catherine was ticketed for speeding and resisting arrest while Jerome was cited for interfering with an officer.

Since the incident, the resisting arrest and interfering with an officer charges have been dropped.

"Never had a handcuff placed on me you know to have this situation happen over a speeding ticket was outrageous," said Jerome Newkirk.

Before asking Newkirk to get out of her car, Enzor told her he was reducing the speed he listed on the ticket from 77mph in a 55 mph zone, to 64mph. Newkirk disputed the fact that she was speeding.

When more troopers arrived, the group had trouble getting Newkirk into a highway patrol car. She says she suffers from hip problems and arthritis the cuffs were causing her pain and swelling.

Highway patrol Spokesman Sgt. Kelly Hughes says Enzor reported the incident to his supervisor and the review process began internally with the highway patrol.

"The traffic stop went well until he went back to explain the ticket to the violator, during that time, he failed to maintain control of the situation," says Hughes.

The department of public safety demoted Enzor from Lance Corporal to Senior Trooper, suspended him without pay for 10 days and referred him to anger management counseling for conduct unbecoming a state employee and willful violation of rules.

While the highway patrol admits the stop should have been handled differently, their investigation of the situation found no biased based policing. 

"They reviewed the trooper's actions of that particular traffic stop, there's no racial slurs made, there was no racial comments made," said Hughes.

The Newkirks never filed an official complaint but, the highway patrol's says it wants the public to know they take complaints and internal investigations seriously -- but for the Newkirks, that is not enough.

"This officer needs to be taken off the street," said Catherine Newkirk.

The family's attorney says they are in negotiations with the state claims adjustor, but if that falls through then he says they could file a lawsuit for wrongful arrest, excessive use of force and a violation of civil rights for discrimination.

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