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Lacrosse team claims deputies pulled their bus over and racially profiled them

The sheriff's office is now responding.

HINESVILLE, Ga. — After nearly three weeks, the community is hearing from a southeast Georgia sheriff's office for the first time after allegations of racism.

A women's lacrosse team from an HBCU, claims deputies from the Liberty County Sheriff's Office pulled their bus over, and racially profiled them.

However, Sheriff William Bowman is giving conflicting accounts to those the team has made.

"The deputies were not aware that this school was historically Black or aware of the race of the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and tinted windows," he said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

On April 20, the Delaware State women's lacrosse team's bus was pulled over by his deputies, who said the driver was illegally driving in the left lane. 

That stop, which a student recorded on video and has received over 44,000 views as of Tuesday, quickly takes a turn.

"I’m not looking for a little bit of marijuana but I’m pretty sure the chaperones will be disappointed if we find any," you can hear one of the deputies saying while on the bus.

Lacrosse player Sydney Anderson, who wrote an article about the experience for the HBCU's newspaper, The Hornet Newspaper, said the team felt racially profiled, as deputies searched bags for 20 minutes.

“It was definitely because the majority of us are Black. The majority of my team is Black, my head coach is Black, and the bus driver is Black. So, there’s no correlation between a traffic law violation and them checking our luggage.”

During the press conference, Bowman claimed deputies did not check their bags.

"No personal items on the bus or person was searched," he said.

Yet, coach Pamella Jenkins said the video shows otherwise.

"That was a traumatic experience," Jenkins said. "They're pulling our luggage out and they have dogs sniffing through our belongings."

Anderson also recalled that moment.

"[K-9's] were smelling our bags, going through everything - our personal hygiene, underwear, and everything in the bag. They did that for about 20 minutes," she added.

In the video you can hear deputies saying, "If there's anything in y'all's luggage, we're probably going to find it."

No drugs were ever found.

"Their response was, on this stretch of highway that a lot of buses like this are smuggling people and narcotics and that they have to be vigilant," Jenkins said.

Delaware State University President Dr. Tony Allen, released a statement on Monday saying in part that "law enforcement members tried to intimidate their student-athletes into confessing to possession of drugs" and that they "do not intend to let this incident pass idly."

“There were several commercial vehicles stopped that morning including another bus where contraband was located," Bowman said. "Due to the nature of the detail, a K-9 was part of the stop and an alert was given by the K-9. A K-9 sniffing on the interior of the vehicle is not a search under the 4th amendment and does call us to search the vehicle."

Bowman did not take any questions from reporters after the press conference.

To view the full video, click here.

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