Chief responds after video of Chesterfield arrest goes viral

Posted at 4:25 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 16:30:02-04

Elkanah Odembo (PHOTO: Chesterfield Police)

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — The 19-year-old Chesterfield man whose arrest Tuesday afternoon was captured on video and shared widely on social media was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

The man, identified as Elkanah Odembo, was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of justice with force, and defective equipment, according to police.

CBS 6 reported the incident began Tuesday afternoon when an officer attempted to stop the Manchester High School graduate’s vehicle around Hollow Wood Court for an equipment violation, according to a Chesterfield Police spokesperson.

“The vehicle pulled into a driveway,” the police spokesperson continued. “The officer approached the vehicle and the driver was uncooperative.”

Elizabeth Smith, 18, who was a passenger in the car, recorded some of the interaction between Odembo and the Chesterfield Police officer.

Her 1:23 clip began as the police officer reached into Odembo’s car in an effort to get him out of the vehicle.

The following exchange was recorded and shared online:

Elizabeth Smith and Elkanah Odembo

Odembo: Record this. I’m at my house.
Officer: Get out of the vehicle.
Odembo: Record this.
Smith: Sir, why does he need to step out of the vehicle?
Odembo: I’m at my house.
Officer: Because he’s not cooperating with me. He keeps trying to get out of the vehicle.
Odembo: No, I’m not.
Smith: No, he’s not. He’s sitting here next to me.
Odembo: I’m sitting here right now. [to Smith] Record this.
Officer: I’m asking you to step out of the vehicle.
Odembo: I’m at my house. I’m at my house, sir. I’m trying to get into my house.
Officer: I don’t care. Get out of the vehicle.
Odembo: What charge are you pressing me against? What charge?
Officer: You’re being detained right now. Get out of the vehicle.
Smith: Sir, why is he being detained?
Odembo: What charge?
Officer: You’ve got a brake light out. You’re not being cooperative.
Odembo: That’s not a charge. You’re at my house.
Smith: We are being cooperative.
Officer: Get out of the vehicle.
Odembo: No.
Smith: Sir, we are being cooperative.
Odembo: You have no right. You need a search warrant. You’re harassing me. I’m suing you.
Smith: Sir, we are being cooperative.

[Officer begins to pull Odembo out of the car]

Odembo: Look at this shit. Do you see this?
Smith: Sir, we are being cooperative.
Odembo: Do you see this shit?
Officer: Get out of the car.
Smith: You said our brake light is out and we’re going to [inaudible]
Odembo: We’re at the house right now.
Officer: I asked you to step out of the vehicle.
Smith: Elly, just step out of the car for a second.
Odembo: I’m not going in no handcuffs, bruh.
Officer: Get out of the car, right now.
Smith: Elly, just step out.
Odembo: Get your hands off of me.
Officer: I’m not taking my hands off of you. Get out of the car.
Odembo: I’m going to sue you. You’re on my property, bro. This is mine!
Officer: Get out of the car.
Smith: Elly! Elly! Elly, step out of the car.
Officer: Let go of the steering wheel.

[At this point Smith exits the car on the passenger side.]

Smith: Elly, just. Oh my God. Elly! Elly! Elly!

The video clip ended without showing what happened outside the car.

A Chesterfield Police spokesperson said the police department is “continuing to review officer body-worn camera video of the incident.” The police department offered the following statement after their preliminary review of the video.

“As the officer approached the vehicle, the driver had the car door open to exit the vehicle. The officer asked the driver for his identification. The officer told the driver he had been stopped because a tail light was out on the vehicle, and the officer had received information that the occupants of the vehicle had been gesturing and yelling things at a school bus,” the police spokesperson said. “The driver did not have his ID, and the officer began to take his information (name, date of birth, etc.). The driver said he didn’t see a problem and attempted to exit the vehicle, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The driver continued to not cooperate with the officer, so the officer told the driver he was being detained and asked him to step out of the vehicle.”

It was then, police said, the driver refused to exit the vehicle.

“The officer repeatedly directed the driver to exit the vehicle and attempted to remove the driver from the vehicle; the driver resisted. At one point, a passenger in the vehicle exited the car and the officer ordered her back into the vehicle,” the spokesperson said. “The driver then exited the vehicle as he was being pulled by the officer; he pushed past the officer and fled around and then into the residence. The officer pursued the driver. The officer caught up to the driver and the two engaged in a physical altercation as the driver resisted being taken into custody.”

Other officers arrived on scene to help take the driver into custody, police said.

“The driver continued to resist, at one point reentering the residence,” the spokesperson continued. “The driver was tased and taken into custody. He continued to passively resist as officers escorted him from the house. The officer who conducted the traffic stop received non-life threatening injuries during the altercation and was taken to an area hospital.”

In an interview Wednesday morning, Smith offered her account of events.

“We arrive to [Elkanah]’s house and we pulled into the driveway and parked. Like five seconds after, all of the sudden, we look up and we’re about to get out and there’s a cop car in the driveway and flashing lights are on,” she said. “We’re like ‘oh my gosh. What in the world? Is everything OK? Why is there cop behind us?’ The next thing you know the cop’s at the window [and] he’s like, ‘Your brake light [is] out,’ and we’re like, ‘Oh gosh.’ Next thing I know my boyfriend’s door is open.”

Smith said she started recording the incident when the officer began to pull Odembo out of the car.

“Any innocent black man would be frightened by a cop [who] put his hand on his gun for no reason, calling back up for no reason, trying to pull him out of the car for no reason,” Smith said in the interview.

Smith’s social media post containing the video clip gained views, shares, and comments overnight. By Wednesday afternoon, more than 1 million people had viewed the clip on social media.

Wednesday morning, Chesterfield Police Chief Jeff Katz took to social media to comment on the situation.

“Late last night, @conspiracypro tweeted about a traffic stop involving @CCPDVa,”the chief’s tweet read. “As most slept, that post went viral based upon the limited information provided. While an effective tweet, it falls short of telling the entire story. Facts matter. Sincerely appreciate your empathy.”

This situation remains under investigation.