Video of a Campbell traffic cop holding a driver and passenger at gunpoint for nearly 10 minutes last week is going viral, generating nearly a million views and more than 10,000 comments on Facebook.
The clip recorded by the female driver, shows the officer aiming his weapon at a male passenger, who keeps his hands in view of the camera. But the footage doesn’t show what preceded the traffic stop on Highway 101 or how it ended, Campbell Police Department spokesman Capt. Gary Berg told San Jose Inside.
“There is more to the story,” he said Tuesday morning.
In a statement posted online Monday, Berg detailed the agency’s version of events based on a review of the officer’s body camera.
On July 28, a Campbell motorcycle cop driving north through Hollister reportedly saw a car zip by in the far-right lane at 85 mph. The officer stopped the vehicle “out of safety concerns,” Berg said. Sworn officers have the right to enforce traffic laws anywhere in the state, regardless of jurisdiction, he added.
In the five minutes before the start of the Facebook video, Berg said, there was “a cordial conversation” between the cop and the two people in the car. According to the statement, the officer explained why he stopped them and asked to see some documentation.
Both the driver and passenger spent several minutes rifling through the car for the requested paperwork, Berg wrote in his narrative. The officer then told them to wait in the vehicle as he wrote up a citation.
That’s when the passenger allegedly reached under his seat.
“Unfortunately, the passenger’s unexpected movement towards the bottom of the seat caused the officer to perceive a threat and draw his handgun,” Berg stated.
The the video picks it up from there.
“You’ve got your gun on me for no f-----g reason right now,” the passenger says, laughing nervously. “Wow. We’re looking for the f------g paperwork, bro.”
“I understand that,” the officer replies. “Don’t move, all right?”
Berg said the reason the officer had his weapon drawn for so long was because rush hour traffic delayed backup from CHP and the city of Campbell. The situation concluded with another civil exchange, according to police.
“In the end, the officer had a conversation with the passenger of the vehicle explaining his actions and why the gun was pointed at him,” Berg said. “The passenger indicated he understood why it happened and actually apologized to the officer. Both the driver and the passenger were issued citations and were allowed to leave.”
The driver was cited for speeding and the passenger for wearing his seatbelt improperly.
The video drew mixed reactions, prompting comparisons to other traffic stops caught on camera that—unlike this one—ended with police killing unarmed civilians. On Facebook, some people defended the Campbell officer. Others questioned whether he needed to draw his gun, and why he held it in a way that appeared to obscure his body camera.
“That cop shouldn’t be just pointing a gun at anyone for no reason,” one commenter said. “However, we have to be smart in the streets. If a gun is pointed on you by a police officer, comply so that it could resolve many issues. Even if the police officer is wrong.”
“I think he was trying to raise his seat up first before going into the glove box,” another replied. “He’s slouched really far in his seat. Ya’ll consider that as a possible scenario?”
“Trump’s police state,” one person exclaimed.
Other reactions devolved into racism and bigotry.
Berg told San Jose Inside that this is the first time Campbell’s police department has had to deal with a viral video involving one of its officers.
“It’s a learning experience,” he admitted. “But our philosophy at Campbell PD is that dialogue and our relationship with the community is really important. That’s why we posted that full release online.”
Top brass is considering whether to release the cop’s body camera footage, which Berg said captured the entire incident—despite the positioning of the officer’s gun and hands. But Campbell police won’t release the name or other identifying information about the officer—other than that he’s a veteran on the force—because the video prompted death threats against him.
“There’s a lot of negative sentiment,” Berg said. “I mean, in reality, it’s a bad situation for everybody involved. Having a gun pointed at you for nine minutes is not a good situation. I get it. And having an officer by the freeway by himself, fearing for his safety because someone reached under the seat, that’s not good for him either.”
San Jose Inside contacted the passenger who posted the video on Facebook, but attempts to set up a phone interview have been unsuccessful. The driver has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Nothing in the body camera footage or Facebook video indicates that the officer violated policy, Berg said. The encounter is, however, being investigated.
“The incident is considered a use of force,” Berg said. “Every time a gun is drawn does not dictate a full review. But based on the length of time here, and the amount of attention that it’s gathering, this is an opportunity to better explain why officers use certain tactics, and an opportunity for us to identify things that we can improve upon.”
Below is the video that was posted to Facebook. Some of the language is NSFW.