State Politics

NC legislator says troopers accused him of stealing car because he’s black

Rep. Cecil Brockman
Rep. Cecil Brockman

State Rep. Cecil Brockman says state troopers accused him of driving a stolen car during a traffic stop, and he suspects the questioning was because he’s black.

Brockman, a High Point Democrat, is now facing criticism from Republicans after Charlotte TV station WBTV broadcast video of the incident.

In the video, Brockman tells the troopers he’s a state representative and that he’s “pissed off” about being stopped. His BMW sedan has a special license plate identifying him as a member of the state House.

Neither Brockman nor the troopers mention accusations of a stolen car in the video.

But one segment of the troopers’ conversation with Brockman, totaling about two minutes, isn’t audible in the video. That portion carries in-car audio instead of picking up audio from Brockman’s car. Brockman says that is when questioning about a stolen vehicle occurred.

The audio does later record Brockman suggesting that his race is a factor in the stop, and the trooper replies “that has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

The officers check Brockman’s vehicle identification number after he tells them he doesn’t have his vehicle registration with him. The trooper says he stopped Brockman because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and the video ends with the trooper handing him a ticket for that violation.

After the traffic stop, Brockman complained to the State Highway Patrol’s liaison at the legislature, Jarrett Burr, and he requested dashcam video of the incident. He says he also contacted the director of the Highway Patrol. Brockman said he never received a reply, and he thinks that the video was “leaked” to WBTV. The station reported that it obtained the video through a public records request.

I knew that they would never question a white state representative about if he stole this car.

State Rep. Cecil Brockman

On Friday, Brockman told The News & Observer that he thinks a white legislator would have been treated differently.

“I was literally pissed off and mad, and I knew that they would never question a white state representative about if he stole this car,” he said. “I do not think that they would have had three cop cars behind a white state representative for a seat belt infraction.”

In the video, one of the troopers said that the additional troopers responded for safety reasons because Brockman didn’t pull over immediately. The legislator drove for several blocks before stopping and said he initially didn’t see the blue lights.

Within minutes of WBTV broadcasting the video late Friday, several Republicans blasted Brockman’s actions on social media.

“Unbelievable,” tweeted Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican whose brother is Jarrett Burr – the liaison that Brockman complained to. “He should be ashamed of his behavior and accusations. Those state troopers were just doing their jobs.”

The official account of the House Republican caucus also weighed in. “Apparently, @CecilBrockman doesn’t think the law applies to him,” it tweeted.

Brockman says the incident has been politicized. “It’s Justin Burr’s brother who I confided in about this,” he said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter