The attorney for a 26-year-old woman who was subject to a body search during an arrest in Raleigh, North Carolina, is accusing the officer of violating the young woman.
The driver’s attorney, Karen Griffin, told NBC affiliate WRAL that the pat down crossed the boundary into sexual assault. The woman, who claims she is a victim of assault and is not identified by NBC News, was searched during an arrest for driving while intoxicated on Sept. 25.
Body camera footage released by Griffin shows Officer K.E. Van Althius unzipping the driver’s jacket, touching her breasts and apparently shaking them, before moving to her shorts. Althius asks the woman to turn around and spread her legs, then runs his hand between them.
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“The officer touched my client in every way that a normal person, especially a woman, would not want to be touched by a man,” Griffin said.
Raleigh Chief of Police Cassandra Deck-Brown defended the officer during a press conference Wednesday where she called Griffin’s claims “egregious, erroneous and unprofessional.” She said Althius conducted a completely valid search and did what he was trained to do.
“That officer was absolutely professional in everything that he did,” Deck-Brown said. “He didn’t deserve that allegation, and I needed to speak out on his behalf.”
The chief claimed the attorney’s comments undermined the experience of sexual assault victims as well as undermining the safety of officers who need to search suspects for their own security. Deck-Brown also said that she was requesting the full video be released.
“Because I think you will also see what I saw,” Deck-Brown said. “And that is that officer was absolutely professional in everything he did. He treated that person with dignity and respect.”
Deck-Brown added that officers can pat down suspects of the opposite sex outside of strip searches. The driver probably could have requested another officer, but the DWI arrest required timeliness, she said.
Althius remains on full duty, according to WRAL.