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Kern County Sheriff's Office responds to 23ABC story about traffic stop

"I still know it’s not normal.”
Posted at 5:35 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 10:13:34-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A Bakersfield man was pulled over by Kern County Sheriff's Office deputies thinking he was a suspect wanted for attempted murder. Deputies approached his vehicle with guns drawn.

Back on June 23rd, a Kern County Sheriff's Deputy pulled over a man who they believed to be a wanted suspect. The individual they pulled over was not who they were looking for. According to a release from the sheriff’s office, a deputy suspected Jasper Slack was a man they were looking for. They said his height and weight matched the suspect who was known to hang out in the area.

Covering Kern County

Man pulled over by KCSO speaks out

Brianna Willis, 23ABC
5:06 PM, Jun 30, 2021

Plus, the sheriff's department considered this a high-risk traffic stop as the suspect, Andrew Ward, was wanted for attempted murder. KCSO goes on to describe how they took Slack into custody by approaching his vehicle with their guns out. It is mentioned that Jasper did cooperate with deputies. It was then they found out he was not the wanted man.

"I feel like I barely made it out with my life and then my freedom. At first, I thought my life was on the line, and then when they told me what was happening I’m like 'you know what, they don’t even care that I'm me,' so now my freedom is on the line. So it's scary, you know. Maybe they’ve never been through that so they don’t understand. I know a lot of people here don’t understand and they never will because they really don’t care to," Slack told 23ABC on Wednesday.

The incident took place in a Walmart parking lot where KCSO deputies stopped, searched, and detained Slack. While they did have the wrong person, KCSO said they were just doing their job.

“It’s the job of a policeman to go out and find people that are hurting other people. That’s what these officers did and it just happened to be the wrong person. But, that’s what we pay them to do, to protect the public.” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

Youngblood says he understands why Slack is upset, but also says deputies were just doing their job.

“He’s obligated to do what a good policeman does, and that is try and apprehend someone for a violent crime. Turns out to be the wrong person and it took 15 minutes out of this young man's life which we regret, but it’s part of what we do. People don’t come to us and say 'I’m the guy you’re looking for, can you arrest me.'"

23ABC again talked with Slack about the incident who says this traffic stop was not normal.

“We’re so used to the police treating people like this. Everybody in the comments ‘oh it happened to me, it happened to my brother, it happened to my cousin' and it's sad because we’ve been conditioned to think this is normal. Where I’m used to it, I still know it’s not normal.”

Youngblood also says that the sheriff’s office investigated the stop and found that deputies followed protocol.

“We offered him a complaint form if he felt like he wanted to file a citizen complaint. He chose not to but we investigated anyway. We pulled the body-worn cameras, we pulled the radio the officers had with their voices and we came to the conclusion that officers did exactly what they should've done.”

Slack says he still plans to file a complaint. He is just waiting for the rest of the body cam footage for the full story.

“I have the complaint paperwork right now, but I want to make sure when I do that complaint, it's detailed and it's as accurate as possible.”
Youngblood also says this was not a racial incident.

“In today’s world, nobody in this county had anything to do with George Floyd, so we have to stop this narrative that we’re stopping African-Americans or people of color because of the color of your skin. It hasn’t happened in this county in the 40 plus years that I’ve been here. That’s not what we do.”

And while Slack doesn’t agree with the stop, he agrees with Sheriff Youngblood.

“It’s not a race thing. It's how they’re treating all of us. We’re paying them and they’re treating us like this.”

Sheriff Youngblood also added that law enforcement has to protect not only the community and the person in the car, but they have to protect themselves and he believes they did exactly what they should have done.

Data from the National Institute of Justice shows that as of late 2018 around 47 percent of all law enforcement officers across the country wore a body camera in some capacity. But not all KCSO deputies wear body cameras while they're at work.

But this is all set to change.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year contract with Axon Enterprise to provide the KCSO with body cameras and tasers.

Currently, KCSO has 130 cameras. The contract, worth $5 million, would give them 195 more for a total of 325 cameras for its deputies to use.

WATCH JASPER SLACK'S FULL INTERVIEW WITH 23ABC:

23ABC Interview: Jasper Slack