Delaware State University Filing Civil Rights Complaint After Lacrosse Team Bus Searched For Drugs – CBS Philly

DOVER, Del. (CBS) — It’s a controversial bus search that’s making national headlines. Now, Delaware State University is filing a formal civil rights complaint over Georgia police stopping and searching the women’s lacrosse team bus for drugs.

The Delaware State University president says the evidence is clear and compelling that both the stop and search of his student athletes heading home from their final season game were a violation of their rights.

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“If there is anything in y’alls luggage we’re probably going to find it, OK,” an officer says in a video of the incident.

During their 11-hour drive home from their final game, the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team’s charter bus came to a halt.

“It almost felt like an out-of-body experience. Like did this really just occur?” coach Pamella Jenkins said.

Cell phone footage of a full-on search for drugs that included K9s was captured by one of the students. It all began with a traffic stop for a minor infraction.

“At first, I was upset because I know these young women, they’re scholar-athletes. So to be accused of something like this, I was upset,” Jenkins said.

Delaware State University has filed a formal complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, citing police misconduct.

“Sheriff Bowman insists that personal items were not searched. The video clearly shows officers searching toiletries, searching clothes and opening a family graduation gift,” DSU President Dr. Tony Allen said.

While the sheriff, who is Black, defends his deputies, Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings has requested a full review by the Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights and the Georgia attorney general.

“We don’t want anyone else, any other team, anyone period, to have to experience feeling the violation that we felt,” Jenkins said.

The university requested bodycam footage of all the deputies involved from the Liberty County sheriff. That deadline expired Thursday.

“We will continue to pursue that action and go through the normal protocols. We’re laser-focused on getting the footage from all the officers involved so we will continue that pursuit until that footage is provided,” Dr. Allen said.

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The search sparked outrage in the Philadelphia area, and around the country.

The video taken by one of the lacrosse players on board shows sheriff’s deputies in Georgia telling the student athletes to fess up if they have drugs on board. 

Twenty minutes later, every single bag, including suitcases in the undercarriage, was searched. 

Delaware State University President Demands Answers After Authorities In Georgia Searched Women's Lacrosse Team's Bus For Drugs

Allen says Liberty County sheriffs were searching for contraband that didn’t exist. 

Not only did they not find any drugs, they left without serving the bus driver a citation after accusing him of a traffic infraction.

DSU is one of the oldest historically Black universities in the nation. 

Students on board say all the deputies were white, and virtually everyone whose bags were searched was Black. 

The women’s lacrosse team says the incident was humiliating and that they are grateful for all the support they’ve been getting. 

“It’s a social issue that’s pretty much reoccurring, and that we obviously need to bring light to every single situation that it happens to someone,” Gwenna Gentle, the team captain of DSU’s lacrosse team, said. “So. I think that us having the proof of it and so many different people’s voices to speak on it because it happened to 29 of us on that bus, and so that I think with the outpouring of support that we’ve been given, that it’s helped bring light to the situation even more.”

Coach Jenkins says concern for the mental well-being of the students and coaches that were on the bus remains paramount.

The school is offering counseling services for anyone who may need it.

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CBS3’s Alecia Reid contributed to this report.

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