Virginia State Police are investigating a recent traffic stop in which a white trooper stopped and arrested a Black woman who works for the U.S. Department of Defense "without proper legal basis,” according to the Office of the Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney.
News4 obtained the dashcam video of the incident, which was first reported on by The Washington Post.
Juanisha Brooks was driving on the Capital Beltway early on March 6 when trooper Robert Hindenlang pulled her over. Video showed that her tail lights were not on. As of March 1, police in Virginia cannot stop drivers for dark tail lights.
Hindenlang asks her to step out of the car and tugs on Brooks’ arm.
Brooks' voice cracks as Hindenlang drags her from her car.
"What are you doing?” she asks. “Please stop! Please stop! What are you doing? What did I do?"
Hindenlang then shoves Brooks against her car as he handcuffs her.
"Don't grab me," he says.
"I'm not grabbing you!" Brooks responds. She starts to scream as he handcuffs her. “Oh my God, you’re hurting me! Get off.”
Hindenlang then says, “You took off from me after you stopped.”
Brooks pulled over when first approached by police, pulled back onto the road and continued driving before finally coming to a stop, video shows.
"Because I thought you were like an ambulance or something!" Brooks says.
She tells Hindenlang that she had one drink two hours before driving. Hindenlang asks if she’s drunk.
“Why were your eyes so watery when I pulled up?" he asks.
“Why are my eyes watery? Because people are being shot by the police. I'm freaking nervous!" Brooks says. Then she is walked back to the trooper's cruiser.
“Am I arrested?" she asks.
“You're under arrest right now for driving under the influence and failing to yield for me,” Hindenlang says.
When tested, Brooks’ blood alcohol content was zero.
News4 spoke with Brooks by phone Monday. She said she works for the Department of Defense and has top security clearance.
She was charged with three misdemeanors: eluding, obstruction of justice and reckless driving including failing to have her headlights on.
The Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano dismissed all of the charges and in a letter to state police said, “After reviewing the dashcam footage, it appears that the stop was without proper legal basis given the March 1, 2021 change in the law."
State police said the trooper had reasonable suspicion to pull over Brooks but are investigating the stop that Brooks said made her fear for her safety.
"Ms. Brooks refused to comply, despite the trooper's repeated requests for her cooperation. During Ms. Brooks' conversation with the troopers, she admitted to having consumed alcohol prior to driving," Virginia State Police said in a statement. "The trooper afforded her the opportunity to complete field sobriety tests to confirm her sobriety, but she refused."
Brooks was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center "where her BAC was tested on a certified Intoxilyzer," police said. She was released on bond.
In another statement, Descano said, “It’s sickening and unacceptable that any member of our community fears for their safety during a routine traffic stop. That’s why I will not rest until we bring about the day when this is no longer the case.”
While the charges were dismissed, Brooks’ attorney said they are working to get them expunged. Her attorney said that even without a conviction, the charges could impact Brooks' security clearance with the defense department.