Crime & Courts

Video obtained after pastor, NAACP claim police mistreatment

A week after a Salisbury pastor teamed up with the NAACP to express concerns about police mistreatment, WBTV has obtained video that contradicts the pastor's statements.

Reverend Bill Godair of Cornerstone Church held a press conference last week with the head of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP to say citizens were being mistreated by officers with the Salisbury Police Department, and the Godair himself had been a victim.

"Approximately one year ago, I felt I was extremely mistreated by a Salisbury Police officer (I have never shared this with you)," Godair said in an email to Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson and city council member Karen Alexander. "My wife was in my vehicle when this incident occurred and was scared by his actions. We honestly thought that I would be arrested."

Godair's complaint had to do with his being pulled over for speeding in 2013. The pastor said that he threw a toothpick out of the window of his car so that it wouldn't be in his mouth when he spoke to the officer. Godair said the officer was aggressive in questioning him about what he threw out the window.

Godair did not file a complaint with police at the time of the incident, according to police records.

In the presser Godair said that he was stopped for speeding while he was rushing to the hospital to visit a member of his church after preaching at a funeral. He says that the officer was aggressive towards him and threatened to have him arrested, and he says that his wife was afraid because of the officer's attitude.

"I have received threats and I just want everybody to know and everybody to understand me that the threats are not going to work," Godair said during the press conference. "But if there is any repercussion that comes back to my personal family or this church congregation, we will deal with is however we need to deal with it."

Godair says the church is holding training on how to deal with officers if they are pulled over by police, saying "no matter how abusive it is, you take it."

"I refuse to sit back and not do anything, not say anything until Ferguson, Missouri becomes a reality here in Salisbury," Godair said.

Monday, WBTV obtained the more than six minute video of Godair's traffic stop in 2013.

The video shows the pastor passing the police officer and the cruiser turning around to pull him over. The officer catches up with Godair after nearly 20 seconds and pulls him over.

The officer tells Godair that he'd been pulled over for his speed.

"I realized it when you turned your lights on and turned around," Godair can be heard in the video saying. "I'm trying to get to the cleaners, I'm a pastor at a church and the cleaner closes at 4 o'clock."

He tells the officer that he needs to get the suit for his morning service.

"I'm guilty, honestly," he can be heard saying in the video.

The officer says Godair was clocked driving 58 mph in a 45 mph speed zone. He then asks Godair what he threw out of the window when he approached.

"I had a toothpick in my mouth and I didn't want to talk to you with a toothpick in my mouth," Godair said.

The officer then asks why he'd throw it out the window, since that would be considered littering.

The video shows the officer asking Godair for his license. The officer then goes back to the cruiser for more than three and a half minutes to write Godair's ticket.

He explains Godair's fine and court information and then tells him to "drive safely" as he walks away.

Godair claims at least five families in his church suffered unspecified mistreatment at the hands of Salisbury Police officers. In his email, Rev. Godair said "we need a leadership change at the Salisbury Police Department."

The head of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP is more pointed, calling for protests unless Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins steps down from his job.

"Justice is a big word," Teamer said at the press conference last week. "But gets very little attention."

Godair claimed that he sent notes to Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson and city council member Karen Alexander about the alleged mistreatment, but received only a "thank you" reply from Alexander.

"The reason for this email is because I will be on a family vacation next week; therefore, not able to attend the meeting scheduled. I consider you both my personal friends and I hope that you receive this email in the same spirit that it was written."

But WBTV obtained the unedited email from Alexander in response to Godair's email.

"Thanks for your perspective. I look forward to meeting our meeting next week. Enjoy your family time," Alexander wrote, referencing a family vacation Godair said he was going to be out of town for.

The email from Karen Alexander shows that city leaders set up four meetings with Teamer.

There was a meeting on April 7 that included Alexander, Teamer, "local ministers," and Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell. Meetings scheduled for July 18, August 6 and meetings twice set for August 12 were canceled by Teamer, according to the email.

The NAACP says that if Collins does not resign, they will begin protesting in Salisbury. They say they also want better training for officers and a citizens review board for the department.

"I'm not mad at the Mayor, the City Council, or the Chief of Police," Godair wrote in a Facebook post. "I'm just a pastor/citizen who is concerned."

Godair also wrote that he spoke with Chief Collins Monday and Collins claimed he was not aware of the complaints. Collins told WBTV the same thing and said that he was looking into the complaints.

Teamer called for a change in training at the police department, and said the department's culture must be changed from the top. Teamer claimed that officers used excessive force, but did not cite any specific examples.

"We have what we think are unwarranted strip searches. When defendants were not arrested but humiliated and left to go home," Teamer said. "We don't want Salisbury to become another Missouri or Florida. And we will do whatever it takes. We will march, we will protest, we will file appeals to higher departments of justice. We're willing to do what we have to do."

Teamer came to the WBTV-Salisbury bureau Tuesday afternoon to talk about the allegations, saying his actions against Collins are not personal.

"It's nothing personal at all," Teamer said. "It's about all these allegations and nothing changes."

WBTV asked Teamer why no specific examples were made available and he said it was because some of the individuals involved were, or could be, part of civil lawsuits. Teamer said there was a DVD recording of one incident, but declined to make it available.

"Unfortunately, due to the nature of our work, it is not uncommon for folks to file complaints against police officers," Chief Rory Collins said in an emailed statement to WBTV. "The Police Department takes these complaints seriously and investigates 100% of them."