San Diego Police Department

‘It's a Race Thing': Father, Son at Center of Controversial Traffic Stop Say Incident Was Mishandled

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The man involved in a “high risk” traffic stop last week in San Diego’s Hillcrest community said he feared for his life as he exited his vehicle to the sight of San Diego officers with their guns drawn, and believes the officers’ actions were racially motivated.

"It’s a race thing. There were no other cops there but white police officers,” father Anthony Fuller said. “To [the officer’s] point of view, there are probably two black males riding in an older model sedan and that's just -- I mean, you kind of put a stereotype with that."

NBC 7's Dave Summers reports from the scene with what led up to the traffic stop, and what's unfolded since.

Fuller was driving down Park Boulevard with his 9-year-old son Anthony when an SDPD officer attempted to pull him over.

“I’m thinking it is going to be a normal traffic stop but it wasn't. It turned into a life or death situation for me and my son,” Fuller recounted.

SDPD spokesperson Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said officers drew their guns and trained them on Fuller’s car because of Fuller's excessive speed – He was allegedly driving 70 mph in a 40 mph zone -- and failure to immediately obey the pursing police officer's lights and siren. Their tactics were appropriate given the traffic stop had turned “high risk,” the spokesperson said.

But Fuller and his son tell a much different story from their perspective inside the vehicle.

SDPD released footage of the incident the following day in response to criticism over the officers’ handling of the situation. Some accused the officers of having their service weapons aimed at Fuller’s son as they asked him to exit the vehicle.

“It was like traumatizing for me because I thought they were going to shoot me,” Anthony said. “They were like saying to my dad that they weren't pointing the gun at me, which clearly to me, and he saw it, that they were pointing the gun directly at my face. I was afraid for my life."

SDPD says the officer-worn camera video shows the weapons were not pointed at Fuller's son, but were focused on what they are calling the "threat,”  which was Fuller’s vehicle.

Fuller claims he wasn't excessively speeding and that he stopped when he heard the police siren.

In part of an email response, Lt. Takeuchi said race didn’t play a part in the traffic stop.

"We have no reason to believe Mr. Fuller was pulled over because of his race nor is there any place for racial profiling in our department.”

According to Takeuchi, there is further police video that the department can use as evidence in a future court case. It’s not headed in that direction at the moment -- No formal police complaint has been filed and there is no investigation of the incident – but Fuller said he’ll take legal action if the time comes.

“The goal is just to really get policy changes so that they can approach kids differently during traffic stops,” Fuller said.

Fuller was cited for a misdemeanor reckless operation violation which he plans to fight in court.

His impounded vehicle has since been returned to him.

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