Adams resident on being stopped by police: 'I didn't ask for this'
ADAMS — Aaron "AJ" Chappell didn't remember hearing an apology from a police officer after he was stopped and ordered out of his car at gunpoint.
It wasn't until viewing the dashcam footage of the incident, posted online by the Adams Police Department, that he recalled an apology.
"I was real shook up," he said. "I was in the back of a [police] cruiser in handcuffs. And it wasn't even the officer who pointed a gun at me. You don't point a gun at someone and then have your friend apologize for it."
Chappell was involved in an "investigative detention" on the afternoon of Jan. 24. A man had been shot on North Summer Street a few minutes before Chappell took his mother's car to a gas station to put air in the tires. On the way, he drove by the scene of the shooting.
During a Select Board meeting Wednesday night, Adams Police Chief Richard Tarsa pointed out inconsistencies in Chappell's recollection of the event as reported by The Berkshire Eagle.
Chappell and his family have alleged that the stop was made, at least partially, because Chappell is black.
Chappell reiterated during a Thursday interview with The Eagle that he was minding his own business, lawfully going about his day, when police compromised his rights and subjected him to a potentially dangerous and traumatizing experience.
"I didn't ask for this," he said. "And any mother would be upset if their child is held at gunpoint. There was no reason for it. That's my point."
Tarsa defended the department and its officers, maintaining that police were not engaging in racial profiling, but rather searching for an armed, possibly dangerous individual with a description that matched some aspects of Chappell's appearance during a "dynamic, rapidly-evolving situation."
He used police cruiser dashboard camera footage to document, among other things, that Chappell did receive an apology, that he was detained in the police car for less than two minutes and that he was treated respectfully.
Tarsa said during the meeting that police were searching for someone based on descriptions provided by the victim — two black men and a man known as Gage Sherman, who is white. One of the black men was described as wearing a red baseball cap and a red hooded sweatshirt.
Sherman, 20, of Clarksburg, was taken into custody in Bristol, Conn., on Jan. 26, on unrelated charges, according to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.
Chappell told The Eagle — and police video shown by Tarsa during his presentation corroborates — that he was wearing a red baseball cap and a white, red and blue North Face jacket with a hood. He has short hair and a close-cropped beard.
Chappell earlier had told The Eagle that he was detained for about 20 minutes in the back of a police cruiser. But Tarsa pointed out that the recordings show he was in the car for less than two minutes.
"It sure seemed like a long time," Chappell said. "It feels like I was definitely in there for more than 3 minutes."
But none of that addressed the real issue, Chappell said.
"I could care less about any of that stuff," he said. "It still makes no sense to me why I was stopped. I was illegally stopped and I didn't match the description — that is wrong, no matter how you look at it."
Chappell said he doesn't want to get anyone in trouble, but to point out that a police practice is not conducive to public safety.
"I just want them to be aware of what they're doing," Chappell said. "You shouldn't just pull people out of their car at gunpoint unless you know for sure I am the guy. That's just wrong."
Scott Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-629-4517.
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