On Friday afternoon, Darrius Strong, a dancer and choreographer, was driving through Bloomington, down Old Shakopee Road, when he got pulled over for speeding.
A Richfield police officer got out of her car and started walking toward him. Then she did something Strong wasn't expecting for a simple traffic stop. She drew her gun.
Neither knew it at the time, but Strong was about to be the victim in a case of mistaken identity. Before stopping him, the officer had run his license plate and noted that the owner of the vehicle’s license had been suspended, and with a felony-level warrant out for his arrest.
“Due to the high-risk nature of arresting individuals with felony-level warrants, officers often have their handguns drawn during these encounters,” said a Saturday press release from the Richfield Police Department, which observed that the cop kept her gun at her thigh and did not point it at Strong.
Later, after some additional checks and a closer examination of the warrant, the officer discovered the error. A different person had falsely given Strong’s name during a previous run-in with police – hence the mix-up.
In the meantime, Strong was sitting in his car, frightened for his life. He took this video immediately after the encounter.
It literally could have been ME . . . I’m happy to be alive, happy to have another day with my loved ones. #itCouldHaveBeenMePosted by Darrius D Strong on Friday, July 10, 2020
“The scariest shit just happened to me,” he said. “I could have been dead today.”
He said the officers – “one female cop, and two bigass dudes” -- approached, ordered him out of his car, cuffed him, and put him in the backseat of a squad car. Thoughts of George Floyd, the Black man killed in detention by Minneapolis police officers six weeks ago, went through his head.
“So, I’m shaking, man,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do to me when this door closes.”
He said the cops told him there was a warrant out for his arrest – a felony related to a “forged check” -- and they were taking him in. Floyd, who had allegedly tried using a counterfeit $20 bill before his arrest and murder, came to mind once again.
“’Forged check?’" Strong said. "Man, I don’t even write checks."
Strong credits the “female cop" for doing the research and letting everyone know it was “alright,” that “they got the wrong guy.” A picture of the man in quesiton, Strong said, revealed him to be noticeably darker-skinned and with a tattoo on his neck.
They pulled him out of the backseat, uncuffed him, explained the mistake, and released him while still on the scene. Strong was still reeling.
“Shit, anything can happen to us, man,” he said in the video. “Especially us Black bodies. Black people. Black men.”
In the Saturday press release, police acknowledged that this was “no doubt a stressful and emotional experience” for Strong.
“While they were doing their jobs based on what they knew at the time of the traffic stop, officers regret the stress Mr. Strong felt. The three cities (Bloomington, Richfield, and Edina) will work with the [Minnesota Bureau of Apprehension] to make sure Mr. Strong’s record is cleared and will continue to have important conversations in our communities regarding police-citizen encounters and how they need to reflect the best of all involved.”
Dash footage of the stop was released on Monday, “to promote transparency,” according to police. You can hear the conversation between the officers and Strong, which remains polite and informational despite the tension.
One of the officers asks about Strong’s kid – how old she is.
“A year and a month, now,” he answers quietly.
After going through the information, the officer taking point informs him that for his trouble, he didn’t have to get a ticket.
“You are free to go,” she said. “I am so sorry.”
Friends commented on Strong’s Facebook video, told him they were glad he was alright, and commended him for keeping his cool in a scary situation. Others, citing the dashcam footage, called him a “liar” for claiming the situation had frightened him.
Things were almost as polarizing – but not as outright mean -- on the police’s Facebook post. Some praised the cops for following through, acknowledging the mistake, and apologizing. Others said that the gesture was empty, or the “bare minimum,” and a meager step above “silence.”
Here's the apology press release in its entirety.