The father at the center of a controversial traffic stop earlier this week believes San Diego Police Department officers had their guns pointed at his 9-year-old son. The department has denied the allegations and released officer-worn camera footage from the incident in response to the claims.
The traffic stop happened Tuesday afternoon in Hillcrest.
Police said the driver, Anthony Fuller, was going 70 mph in a 40 mph zone along Park Boulevard. When the officer spotted him speeding he turned on his lights and sirens, but Fuller didn't immediately pull over, according to SDPD.
"I was not running from police. There was no reason to run,” Fuller told NBC 7 over the phone Thursday.
SDPD described the incident as a failure to yield, not a pursuit. It was, however, classified as high risk because of the high speed and prompted elevated caution from officers.
“I was not immediately aware of the police officer behind me. I was focused on getting to my studio. My son had to use the bathroom,” Fuller said. “I expected this to be a normal traffic stop. My son started crying. I was afraid for my son’s life and told him not to move."
Footage of the traffic stop released by SDPD Wednesday begins with an officer, with his gun drawn on Fuller's vehicle, telling him to step out of the car.
Fuller exits the car with his hands in the air. Before he begins walking backward toward the officers, he can be heard saying that his son is in the front seat and he's crying, then he asks if the officer can lower his weapon.
Once Fuller was secured, officers' attention turned to Fuller's son. The officer wearing the body camera keeps his gun raised and pointed at the vehicle as he asks the 9-year-old boy to exit and walk towards him.
Fuller can be heard asking the officer to aim his weapon away from his son, and the officer lowers it partially as the boy walks forward with his hands in the air. An SDPD spokesperson said Thursday the officer's gun was "pointed towards the direction of the threat which for this incident was the vehicle."
Fuller disagrees with the department's point of view.
“I saw the gun pointed directly at my son. Even if the gun was pointed at the car, my son was at the car,” Fuller said.
Many on social media thought differently also. Criticism mounted after an image of the traffic stop incident was posted and shared several times on social media. The witness's entire video was later posted on YouTube by local news outlet SanDiegoVille.com.
The vantage point of the witness was opposite police, with the boy in between officers and the lens.
Fuller said he has not filed a formal complaint with SDPD, but he has hired an attorney Dante Pride. Pride is scheduling a news conference with Fuller on Friday.
An SDPD spokesperson said that based on the footage released by the department, "there do not appear to be any obvious violations of department policy/procedure."
After questioning Fuller, SDPD cited him with a reckless driving misdemeanor and impounded his car.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the image circulating on social media was disturbing, and said he acted quickly to release video fo the incident "so everyone could see the truth of what occurred."
City Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe was more critical, and called on the department to review how children are treated during traffic stops.