TAMPA, Fla. – Just days after a woman shared a video of an encounter she had with a Tampa police officer on social media, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling for the state attorney to take action.
In a letter sent to State Attorney Andrew Warren, ACLU claims the Tampa Police Department violated Florida law by publicly posting Joneshia Wilkerson’s name, date of birth, phone number and home address on YouTube, causing Wilkerson to receive numerous threats.
“When they blasted my information out, I felt like they were not concerned with my personal wellbeing. I felt completely harassed by the Tampa Police Department,” Wilkerson previously said.
Back in late June, ABC Action News reported on how Wilkerson’s social media video and the TPD officer’s bodycam video showed two completely different sides of the tense encounter.
“Y'all I got pulled over and this cop is literally pointing a gun at me. He still didn’t put his gun down,” she said in the social media video. "Sir, can you at least put your gun down?”
A TPD police officer pulled Wilkerson over on June 18 after they said the car she was driving was reportedly stolen. The officer was alone and had his gun pointed toward Wilkerson, but angled down.
“I felt once they figured out I was compliant the gun should have been placed away,” Wilkerson previously said.
Two days after the tense incident, TPD posted the officer’s body-camera video on YouTube. Since the body-camera video was published, ACLU said Wilkerson, a 23-year-old single mother who is on leave from active duty in the U.S. Army, received threatening phone calls and messages from complete strangers. Some of the calls had threats and racial slurs, according to ACLU.
“One caller even pretended to be a police officer and tried to lure her somewhere by telling her that the police needed to speak to her in person,” said ACLU in a letter to Warren.
ACLU said the threats have caused Wilkerson to be scared for her life and she now lives in a hotel.
“The timing of the foregoing suggests that TPD published Ms. Wilkerson’s personal information, when they knew that it would cause her to receive harassment and threats, to retaliate against her for publishing a video of an officer raising his gun to her and for initiating an internal-affairs complaint,” ACLU said in a letter to Warren.
ACLU went on to ask Warren to investigate “whether TPD personnel might have willfully and without authorization used Ms. Wilkerson’s personal information, without her consent, for the purpose of causing her substantial emotional distress without a legitimate purpose.”
ACLU said such actions would violate section 817.568(4), a Florida Statute related to harassment.
Including Wilkerson’s personal information wasn’t an accident, according to ACLU. The letter says the passenger’s personal information was redacted from the video and the name of the friend from Wilkerson borrowed the car was also redacted.
“Someone had to have deliberately made the decision to redact the other individuals’ information from the video but to leave Ms. Wilkerson’s name, date of birth, home phone number, and home address on YouTube for absolutely anyone to see,” ACLU said in a letter to Warren.
TPD eventually redacted Wilkerson’s personal information from the video but left the rest of the video up on YouTube, ACLU said.
ACLU said TPD had “every reason to know that Ms. Wilkerson would be on the receiving end of harassment and threats from complete strangers” if her personal information was included in the YouTube video.
TPD said at the time of the incident that the officer did what he was supposed to do and that officers often take extra precautions because stolen cars can be linked to other crimes.
Wilkerson ultimately did not face charges stemming from the incident. She said she borrowed the car from a woman she’s known since high school.
Below is a full letter sent over to the State Attorney's Office: