Questions raised about Darrius Stewart's rights before fatal sho - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Questions raised about Darrius Stewart's rights before fatal shooting

Darrius Stewart (Source: Facebook) Darrius Stewart (Source: Facebook)
Connor Schilling (Source: MPD) Connor Schilling (Source: MPD)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

As Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigates the shooting death of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart, many people said it is a wake up call about knowing your rights as a passenger.

Questions are being raised as to whether Stewart, as a passenger in the car, should have been searched or ID'd at all during a traffic stop. 

Memphis police officers said the driver of the car Stewart was riding in on Friday was pulled over because of a broken headlight. Stewart was reportedly placed in the back of a police car as Officer Connor Schilling checked his record for possible warrants.

While specifics about Stewart's behavior during the traffic stop have not been released, defense attorney Juni Ganguli cleared up concerns about passengers' rights in Tennessee.

"If we assume that he was acting properly, then there is really no reason for the officer to detain Darrius," Ganguli said. "In Tennessee, there is no stop and identify law ... A passenger doesn't have to say anything to an officer. An officer can ask whatever they want to, but a passenger does not have to respond."

So why was Darrius Stewart searched? Why was he asked for identification? Ganguli said an officer in Tennessee can only search or ID a passenger if that officer believes there was reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.

Meanwhile, Memphis Police Department said "there is no policy in place that says to, or not to, check passengers in a vehicle. However, it is common practice, for officer safety, to identify those they come into contact with during a traffic stop."

How to react

It is generally a good idea to cooperate with police officers.

"You've got to behave respectfully toward officers, whatever complaints you have. You'll have to air them out in court," Ganguli said.

Shelby County Schools board member Stephanie Love shared her concerns.

"As a black woman, I've been pulled over by police and some of them have been aggressive," she said. "As I'm seeing across America, doing the right thing may very well get you killed. So, what is the right thing? If you're quiet, you still may die ... I will stand up for my rights and that may very well get me killed."

Black lives matter

Tennessee lawmaker Antonio Parkinson drove from Nashville on Thursday to speak at a Frayser Exchange Club meeting. He says that black lives do matter and he wants the investigation into Stewart's shooting to be taken seriously.

"No parents should have to bury their children," he said. "It's not saying that black lives are above any other lives. It's saying that it appears to be trending that black lives are devalued in some cases."

Parkinson is urging everyone to be patient as TBI gets all of the facts in the case. He supports any investigation that must be done to give Stewart's family clarity.

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