Black law student sues Arkansas police, says he was detained for ‘driving while Black’

Matthew Allen
·3 min read

Marion Humphrey Jr, son of a retired judge, says race was a factor in a traffic stop as he drove home from University of Arkansas School of Law last summer

A Black law student and son of a retired judge has sued the Arkansas Police Department after being detained for nearly two hours during a traffic stop and let go last summer.

Marion Humphrey Jr., who studies at the University of Arkansas School of Law, in a lawsuit claims he was stopped by law enforcement and the vehicle was searched because he was “driving while Black.” He is now suing for “money damages for injuries” sustained due to “unlawful search and seizure in violations of his constitutional rights,” the complaint reads.

It names Steven Payton, an Arkansas State Police trooper, as the defendant.

Marion Humphrey Jr, a law student at University of Arkansas, is seen handcuffed and held by a state trooper in a police dash cam video.
Marion Humphrey Jr, a law student at University of Arkansas, is seen handcuffed and held by a state trooper in a police dash cam video.

As reported by KATV, Humphrey was driving home to Little Rock, Arkansas from the school in Fayetteville city when he was stopped on the highway by a state trooper last August. The third-year law student was driving a U-Haul truck carrying his belongings to move back home after classes were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the trooper, Payton, he executed the stop because Humphrey nearly crashed the U-Haul on the highway. When Humphrey declined to allow Payton to search the U-Haul, a police dog was brought in to sniff the outside of the vehicle.

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When the dog allegedly detected something, Humphrey was detained and placed inside of the police car as more troopers came to search the back of the U-Haul. A dashboard camera from Payton’s vehicle shows an emotional Humphrey, who can be heard pleading, “I didn’t do anything, daddy, please,” and, “Daddy, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die,” after he was placed inside of the trooper’s vehicle.

Humphrey, 32, is the son of retired Pulaski County judge Marion Humphrey, who served for 18 years before returning to private practice. Little Rock is in Pulaski County.

As additional troopers arrived, they opened the back of Humphrey’s U-Haul to search through his belongings. After almost two hours from when he was stopped, Humphrey was finally let go by the trooper and was issued a warning.

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Humphrey has now filed a suit against the Arkansas Police Department, believing that the real reason he was stopped was because of the color of his skin.

“It’s just heartbreaking and it underscores why we can’t allow this sort of thing to happen,” said Conner Eldridge, a former U.S. Attorney who is representing Humphrey.

“When he made that decision, he knew two things,” Eldridge said, as reported by KATV. “He knew he was a Black man [and] driving a U-Haul. And that’s not a crime.”

In addition to suing for monetary damages over the traffic stop, Humphreys and Eldridge are hoping that this suit will lead to immediate change in the infrastructure of the Arkansas Police Department.

“Regardless of how people feel about national issues, anyone in Arkansas ought to be outraged that that occurred,” Eldridge said.

The complaint states that Humphrey is no stranger to witnessing racial prejudice in the state where he’s lived his entire life.

It reads that he “observed and experienced systemic racism all around him growing up in Arkansas” and that this upbringing inspired him to attend law school, hoping to “have a meaningful impact on racism’s ill-effects on society today.”

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