Video footage of a Cody police officer’s traffic stop and arrest of a local 17-year-old is going viral for all the wrong reasons.
A nearly 9-minute edited video of Officer Blake Stinson stopping and ultimately arresting a 17-year-old Cody High School student in January uploaded to the LackLuster YouTube channel Monday already has more than 430,000 views.
Titled “Dash Cam Proves Cop Wrong — Case Dismissed,” the video is stitched together from police vehicle dash cam and body cam video. In it, Stinson claims he pulled the teen over for nearly hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk in front of Cody High School.
The video shows that, in fact, was inaccurate — and a lot more that wasn’t kosher about the stop or Officer Stinson’s behavior during the stop, said Steven Titus of Titus & Associates of Gillette, who specializes in criminal defense law.
The Park County Attorney's office has since dismissed any charges against the teen.
‘Aggressive’ And ‘Outrageous’
“First off, you knew right away it was going to be an interesting interaction,” said Titus, who reviewed the video at the request of Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve watched thousands of traffic stops … and this is the first one I’ve seen where the officer really had no reason to be aggressive.”
In the video, Stinson is aggressive with the teen driver from the beginning, and the interaction escalates from there. And it was unnecessary, Titus said.
“In this case, the officer just started fighting with the driver from the get-go, and that just sets the tone for the whole interaction,” he said. “I don’t know if he was having a bad day or what.
“And, it looks like the kid didn’t even commit the traffic infraction in the first place.”
In the video, Stinson orders the driver to give him his license, registration and proof of insurance. The teen, who appears flustered, says he doesn’t know where the documents are as it’s his mother’s car. So, he calls her on his cellphone.
When he offers the cellphone to Stinson to talk to her about the stop and where the documents are, the officer declines to talk to her and instead orders the teen out of the car.
“OK, go ahead and step out of the vehicle,” he says. “Step out of the vehicle. I can smell marijuana in the vehicle, get out!”
The driver doesn’t get out immediately.
“I’m not going to tell you again!” Stinson says. “You’re going to get out of the vehicle or I’m going to drag you out!”
The incident escalates from there.
Stinson: “Open the door. Open the door now!”
Driver: “My mom’s on the way.”
Stinson: “I don’t care. Open the door now.”
Driver: “Can I get my mom down here?”
Driver: “I’m not 18 years old.”
Stinson: “It doesn’t matter. I saw a violation, I stopped you for it, and you’ve already talked back to me about getting your stuff (documents) out.”
Driver: “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Stinson: “Get out of the vehicle, that’s what’s going on.”
As Stinson and another officer try to physically pull the driver out of the car by grabbing him through the open window, Stinson also says, “When you don’t do what you’re told, this is what happens.”
‘An Overzealous Officer’
Titus said that, while the driver did do some things wrong — namely not providing his driver’s license when told to — it was clear from the start that the officer began the stop aggressively and caused it to escalate.
“When you get pulled over, whether the law enforcement officer’s in the right or wrong, you do need to show your ID,” Titus said, adding that from the start it was apparent that “nothing good was going to come from this whole situation.”
Even more concerning for Titus than Stenson’s aggression was that he seems to lie or embellish to other officers who arrive on the scene later to justify the traffic stop in the first place, he said.
In the video, he tells other officers that the driver almost hit a pedestrian, who had to swerve to miss getting hit by the car. But Stenson’s dash cam shows the pedestrian crossed behind the car after it had begun making its turn.
“Up until he lied, he could’ve been having a bad day, but then he embellished to justify it to other officers,” Titus said, adding that those other officers also should’ve acted to defuse the situation.
“The situation could’ve been defused many times where it didn’t have to end up on YouTube,” he said. “This is an overzealous officer who did what he did.”
That the officer would even pose the appearance of embellishing or fabricating reasons for making a stop puts the entire Cody Police Department in jeopardy, Titus said. That’s because it opens a window for defendants to question the validity of their tickets or arrests involving Stinson in the future.
“What people should be asking is why are we allowing officers that lie to patrol our streets?” he said. “When he embellished what happened, that stinks. We hold (police) in such high esteem ... and it really hurts law enforcement to lie to other law enforcement about what happened.”
Mom ‘Was Very Upset’ To See Video
Near the end of the video, the driver’s mother, Teresa Piper, arrives and tells another officer that she and her son have had interactions with Officer Stinson before.
She told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday morning that Stinson arrested her for DUI in 2017 and had followed her son before the incident in late January. When she saw the video showing just how the stop went down, she was angry.
“I was very upset, because I felt Stinson could’ve handled it in a different manner,” she said. “He didn’t have to be so angry and upset.”
She said he’s “well-known for that” type of behavior and that what happened that day “was a little outrageous. It was right in front of the high school right when the high school was letting out.”
Piper also said that, while he wasn’t required to talk to her when her son called at the beginning of the stop, had Stinson agreed to talk to her the entire interaction may have gone differently.
“I could’ve explained where the documents were and that I was on my way,” she said, adding her son “was just a nervous wreck. As soon as he saw it was Officer Stinson, he was terrified. It could’ve been handled a lot differently.”
To be fair, Piper admitted her son did have marijuana paraphernalia in the car, but it was in a plastic case, so she questions how Stinson could’ve smelled it from outside the car as he says in the video.
She said that from the rough handling of removing her son from the car, “he had bruises all over his arms,” but otherwise wasn’t physically hurt. “But definitely his pride. It happened in front of every student in Cody High School.”
What Should Happen?
In a Wednesday press release, Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker acknowledges the impact the video is having around the community and that the stop is being investigated.
He also said a former complaint, which Piper said she filed recently, is being reviewed, but that “we will not be able to release the results of that investigation and any action that may be taken as a result of that investigation due to state laws which restrict the disclosure of that information.”
The press release also says that people should be careful in watching a video that’s been edited and has a voiceover.
“We also ask the community to understand that some videos and social media content which show portions of the video have been edited and narrated to show selective parts of the interaction, and do not necessarily tell the whole story,” the release says.
Still said he agrees that the video had been edited, but that it doesn’t change his perception of what it shows.
“It’s obvious he was emotionally charged for really no reason,” Titus said. “This whole situation could’ve been completely avoided if someone — and I know he didn’t have to — but if he could’ve just talked to the mom.
“There were a lot of things that went wrong here. We’re lucky nobody really got hurt, nobody got shot or anything.”
Piper said the family may consider legal action, but hasn’t decided yet.
In the mean time, she feels Stinson shouldn’t be patrolling the streets of Cody.
“He is definitely a bad apple. He’s very aggressive, has a bad attitude,” she said. “We have some amazing cops here in Cody, Wyoming. This guy is definitely not one of them.”
Titus said that whether the officer should be disciplined is up to that department, but he hopes the video can be motivation to change.
“Cody deserves better than this, Wyoming deserves better than this, and I hope this officer gets whatever remedial training he needs,” he said.
Editor's note: We had reached out to two Wyoming attorneys for input on this story and because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story attributed Steven Titus' comments to state Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs. That has been corrected.