RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Shaw University officials chimed in on a traffic stop and search that has been the source of controversy since early October.

At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Shaw University President Dr. Paulette Dillard and other university leaders gathered for a press conference, all sharing a common message that the Oct. 5 stop of a charter bus carrying Shaw University students was racially motivated.

The bus transporting 18 Shaw students and two staff advisors was traveling from Raleigh to Atlanta for a conference when a traffic stop took place on Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County, S.C.

In her first response, Dr. Dillard said she was “outraged” by the stop and search, which she said was “targeting Black students.”

At the end of October, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright and Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller responded to Dr. Dillard’s claims — calling them “slanderous and libelous.”

The same day that the sheriffs responded, body-cam footage of the stop was released.

Wright added that the bus was stopped after the driver was weaving in lanes, and that any suggestion that the stop was racially motivated is false. The sheriffs also clarified that the bus search was the 40th conducted in a larger operation.

On Monday, Dr. Dillard called the stop and search a “teachable moment.” During her speech and others, several comparisons were drawn to the Jim Crow South, to the Civil Rights Movement and even to the death of George Floyd.

“Just because there isn’t a knee on someone’s neck doesn’t mean that harm no harm is being done,” Dr. Dillard said.

As part of the announcements Monday, the university also filed an official complaint with the United States Department of Justice to “request for an investigation into Title VI and Civil Rights Violations committed by the Spartanburg County and the Cherokee County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Offices.”

Page 1 of the filing states “Shaw requests an expedited and independent review of the unfounded search of eighteen Shaw University students in October 2022, and an investigation of the Spartanburg County and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Offices for civil rights violations.”

The letter highlights three areas of concern:

  • Search and seizure under the pretext of an alleged lane violation
  • Violation of the passengers’ reasonable expectation of privacy
  • Operation Rolling Thunder

Dr. Dillard said the press conference and their announcement of the DOJ complaint are to “redirect the focus of this local and national conversation back onto the real issues of importance related to fairness, justice and accountability.”