I-TEAM: Recorded traffic stop raises questions of racial profiling and a violation of rights

‘I’ve done things to shield myself from this type of stigma, but it’s still managed to follow me,’ Braxton Smith told News4JAX

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local veteran is turning to the News4JAX I-TEAM after Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Task force officers pulled him over in a traffic stop on the Northside. Braxton Smith says he and his car were searched. He insists he was illegally detained and questioned for more than 30 minutes before being let go. The first three minutes of the police encounter were captured on his cell phone camera, before officers turned the recording off.

Smith is also taking issue with the fact that JSO Task Force members stopped his cell phone video from recording while searching his vehicle without his consent. He says he wants answers and he wants the officers held accountable.

I-TEAM reporter and anchor Tarik Minor interviews Braxton Smith about his traffic stop (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

News4JAX I-TEAM reporter Tarik Minor asked Smith, “Did you ask them why they were pulling you over?”

Smith replied, “Numerous times.”

Then, Tarik asked, “And what did they say?”

Smith replied, “They did not give me an explanation.”

Navy Veteran Braxton Smith says he still doesn’t know why he was handcuffed, searched and questioned the Wednesday before Thanksgiving -- by officers with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Task force off Brentwood Avenue.

Smith says police pulled him over, shortly after he was speaking with a man he knew in a parking lot of a convenience store. He said officers were aggressive from the very start, before eventually finding no crime and letting him go.

In the cell phone video Smith recorded of the traffic stop, you can hear:

“Turn the car off, turn it off, turn it off.”

“It’s off”

“Put your hands out the window, put your hands out the window. Don’t move.”

“I am not moving, what’s up?”

“Can you unlock it, you keep your hands out the window and I’ll figure it out.”

“I’m chilling what’s up?”

“Get on the ground, get on the ground.”

“I’m not doing anything, I’m not resisting.”

Smith says he was put into handcuffs, thrown on the ground, and searched by officers. One officer is heard on video asking Smith about drugs.

“Do you have a medical marijuana card sir?”


“Have you been smoking?”

“Do you smoke hemp? Put your foot on the ground.”

Smith says he did not resist and followed the officers’ orders. He says he did not give the officers permission to search his car -- and claims his back was injured during what he thought was his arrest.

“It made me feel humiliated, someone like myself, I’m a veteran, I went to college, and I’ve done things to shield myself from this type of stigma, but it’s still managed to follow me,” Smith said.

Roughly three minutes into the incident, an officer noticed Smith’s cell phone recording. That officer then lets his colleagues know and the interaction was caught on camera.

“I was scared from beginning to end -- but once I heard them say ‘live’, I figured they were talking about my phone. It was racial profiling from beginning to end, I know I did not commit any traffic violations,” Smith said.

Defense attorney Gene Nichols, who is not associated with the case, viewed the video and says while he doesn’t know what transpired before the phone started recording, he questions why Smith was handcuffed, and why his car searched.

“Let’s be clear, he was arrested, and they better have had a reason -- probable cause, if he had committed a crime -- to put those handcuffs on him or else the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is going to have a lot to answer for,” Nichols said.

Nichols continued, “If this is unlawful, it was unlawful at the moment of the initial detention, which are the arms out the window -- and then the arrest when he got handcuffed there on the side of the road.”

“Somebody is going to have to explain at some point in time probably to a judge, or at least to some lawyers as to why they took the actions that they did, they may have had a lawful basis for it. But it doesn’t appear so, at least in the video that we’ve seen,” Nichols said.

News4JAX emailed the YouTube link of the cell phone video to JSO and asked for a response, and a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office responded saying: We have been made aware of the below information by way of a formal complaint by Mr. Smith. The incident is currently being administratively reviewed and once that has been completed the outcome would be made a public record.

Smith says he is considering taking legal action.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.