JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A prominent local pastor said he was left traumatized after a Jacksonville sheriff's officer pulled a gun on him after pulling him over because of his window tint.
The incident happened July 23, but leaders of the black community gathered Friday for a town hall meeting to discuss the problem and ways to improve race relations in the city.
Pastor Darien Bolden said he was profiled in part because of the car he was driving, a 2014 Mercedes S550. Bolden said he was in the Springfield neighborhood looking at potential investment properties when he was stopped by two officers.
“I'm minding my own business. I've got my seat belt fastened. I’m not speeding,” Bolden said.
Bolden said things escalated once he told the officer he had a concealed weapon permit and a firearm in the car.
“He asked the question, ‘Where is it?’ I still have my wallet in my left hand on the steering wheel, I turn towards my console and reach my hand down and as I do that, the next thing I know my nephew is shouting and he's shouting, 'Don't reach for it.' I turn only to be facing the barrel of a 9 mm Glock,” Bolden said. “I'm still having sleepless nights because that's all I can think about is what if I had gotten killed.”
Local black leaders said this interaction happens far too often. Several people stood up during the town hall and shared similar experiences. They said it’s a prime example of “driving while black.”
“I abided by the law and abiding by the law can sometimes get you killed,” Bolden said.
Action News Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, who is a former JSO officer, said it doesn’t appear the officer followed procedure.
“The right procedure would be to ask them to get out of the car, place them in a secure area and remove the weapon yourself,” Jefferson said.
Several City Council members were at the town hall. District 7 Councilman Reggie Gaffney said he’s already reached out to Sheriff Mike Williams about the incident.
“It's time for us to really take a look at the policy of the Sheriff’s Department and see how we can unite this community and this city,” Gaffney said.
Bolden had this message for the community:
“It's real and it can happen to you.”
JSO said in a statement that a representative has been in touch with Bolden “to discuss last week's event and his concerns and allegations. This matter will be thoroughly investigated by the JSO.”
JSO declined to comment for this story because it’s an “active investigation.”
Bolden said he didn’t get a citation that day and showed the officer that his car has window shades that when rolled up appear to show a darker window tint.