Late one evening in 2015, an African-American woman was driving home in Harris County, Texas, when she was pulled over for running a stop sign. She claims that moments later, responding officers pulled down her pants and subjected her to a humiliating cavity search in a gas station parking lot. Texas police officers allegedly searched the woman's vagina for 11 minutes, and newly released dashcam footage appears to capture the incident.
The incident is now the subject of a multi-million-dollar civil lawsuit that the woman, 23-year-old Charneisha Corley, has filed against Harris County. The lawsuit details the incredibly invasive search that Corley was allegedly subjected to by officers at the scene. According to the lawsuit:
When one of the Deputies tried to insert her fingers into Ms. Corley’s vagina, Ms Corley protested. At that point, the Deputies forcibly threw Ms. Corley to the ground, while she was still handcuffed, pinned her down with her legs spread apart, threatened to break her legs and without consent penetrated her vagina in a purported search for marijuana.
Despite these harrowing claims, criminal charges against the officers were dropped the day before the case was set to go to trial, and the officers in question currently still work for the department on administrative duty. As a result, Corley's attorney, Sam Cammack, made the graphic dashcam footage public on Monday, and requested that a special prosecutor be appointed to the case.
Cammack hopes that the new evidence will make the community "outraged and disgusted," and he has described the incident as "rape by cop." According to a local ABC affiliate, a spokesperson for the department told reporters that the officers did everything as they should and followed standard protocol while searching Corley. The Harris County Sheriff later clarified that strip searches should not be conducted without a warrant, and should only be conducted in "private, sanitary" facilities.
The officers reportedly began searching Corley after the male officer at the scene smelled marijuana in her car. After a fruitless search of the vehicle, the officer then summoned a female officer to conduct a strip search. Cammack told the Huffington Post that after the first female officer pulled Corley's pants down and began searching her, the officer then summoned a second female officer for assistance.
“One held one leg and the other held the other leg and they stuck their fingers up inside of her,” Cammack said. “This was in a Texaco parking lot, where people were walking by and cars were driving by. This was a very busy area.”
Investigators claim to have found 0.02 ounces of marijuana on Corley, though Cammack argues that there was no marijuana at the scene. A federal court will soon decide whether Crowley's invasive strip search can be classified as a violation of civil liberties.