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Georgia authorities have been called out for “underlying racism” after a bus carrying the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team was searched for drugs.
The lacrosse team was traveling from a game in Florida April 20 when its bus was pulled over by deputies with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office along Interstate 95 south of Savannah.
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In an open letter to the university community Monday, university President Tony Allen alleged that the bus was stopped “under the pretext of a minor traffic violation” after which the student’s belongings were searched by police and drug-sniffing canines.
“To be clear, nothing illegal was discovered in this search, and all of our coaches and student-athletes comported themselves with dignity throughout a trying and humiliating process.”
A member of the team wrote an article published in the university’s Hornet Newspaper detailing the experience.
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“The fact of the matter is the underlying racism the Delaware women’s lacrosse team endured,” the player wrote. “The officers tried to get them to admit to having drugs, while there was none in their possession. The officers conducted an unlawful search because there was no probable cause. Majority of the team members had never experienced an encounter with the police, making this a traumatic incident for them.”
Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman, who is Black, said Tuesday his office is conducting a formal review of the traffic stop. He said deputies had stopped other commercial vehicles the same morning along I-95 and found drugs on a different bus. The team’s chartered bus was stopped because it was traveling in the left lane, which is a violation of Georgia law, he added.
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“I do not exercise racial profiling, allow racial profiling or encourage racial profiling,” Bowman told reporters. The sheriff added that, based on what he already knows, “I believe the stop was legal.”
No one was arrested or charged. The sheriff said the bus driver was issued a warning for a traffic violation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.