Black exec handcuffed in his own driveway by Pa. trooper wins in court
PHILADELPHIA – Rodney Gillespie, an African American pharmaceutical executive who accused a Pennsylvania state trooper of racial profiling after a July traffic stop in which he was handcuffed in the driveway of his Chadds Ford home, had a happy 53rd birthday Tuesday.
A charge against Gillespie of failing to drive within a single lane was dismissed by Delaware County Judge Kathrynann W. Durham after the arresting officer, Trooper Christopher Johnson, failed to show up for the trial in Media.
“I had my video evidence ready to show the judge, and Rodney was there and ready, and the cop never showed up, no explanation,” said Gillespie’s attorney, Michael Quinn.
Ryan Tarkowski, a spokesperson for the state police, did not respond to a call for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Gillespie, an executive with AstraZeneca, said he now intends to file a lawsuit. “I’m hopeful that this type of action will help prevent this from happening to other innocent members of society, and especially people of color,” he said.
A 25-minute police dashcam video of the 1 a.m. July 8 incident was made public in September when an internal state police probe cleared Johnson of racial bias against Gillespie. The investigation also concluded that troopers on the scene violated two departmental regulations during the traffic stop.
The video starts shortly before the left tires of Gillespie’s rented Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo touch the yellow lines of a road that intersects with the street where his family lives, but does not show when Johnson and his partner began following the Jeep on Baltimore Pike. The trooper activates his flashing lights after the tires touch the yellow lines.
Gillespie contends that the troopers had no reason to follow the Jeep he was driving with his wife, Angela, and their teenage daughter as passengers, returning from a visit with relatives in Lambertville, New Jersey.
“I think I was completely targeted,” he told The Inquirer in August. “This is a very nice, affluent neighborhood. A black guy driving. I guess he thought I was driving by myself, and he wanted to follow and see.”
During the encounter, Gillespie was handcuffed and rebuked by Johnson for saying he had not pulled his vehicle over immediately when the trooper turned on his lights and siren because he feared being shot on the unlighted road. He stopped when he got to his well-lighted driveway.
Gillespie and his wife had returned to the Philadelphia area the week before after living for six years in London and Johannesburg for his job.
“To be welcomed back this way just didn’t make sense,” Angela Gillespie said in August. “This is not the America we left in 2013. We’ve come back to an elevated rage.”
Gillespie initially pleaded guilty to the traffic violation, but that conviction was vacated, and a second charge for failing to immediately stop was dismissed.