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EXCLUSIVE: Former UAH Police Chief sends 48 News body camera footage of traffic stop involving Hazel Green High student

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Every story has two sides; but the former UAH Police Chief, Michael Snellgrove, said he wasn’t allowed to go public with the police department’s side of a story after a traffic stop involving one of his officers and an honor roll student from Hazel Green High School.

In October, a 17-year-old was pulled over by UAH police for what his mother called a cracked but functioning taillight. His mother said the officer verbally abused her son and made him feel threatened for his life.

In a story you will see only on 48 News, our Kate Smith shows you some of the police body camera footage and shares how the former police chief wants to clear up any speculation from that night.

48 News asked the university administration for body camera footage multiple times through an open records request, but was denied each time.

Former UAH Police Chief Snellgrove shared some of the video with us after he said he was fed up with how the university asked him to stay silent. He hopes this video clears his officers of any wrongdoing.

“He was flying, with no headlights,” you can hear a UAH police officer speaking with another officer in his body camera footage. “He’s got his lights on now, white light to the rear. As soon as I get behind him, he starts weaving in his lane a whole lot. I can see him rubbing his head and acting all sketchy.”

The video is from the night an honor roll student and star athlete from Hazel Green High was pulled over by UAH police on his way home from work.

According to the police chief at the time of the traffic stop, UAH police officers were seeing an uptick in drug trafficking near campus.

“Let me ask you this, why are you so nervous?”

“Sir?,” questioned the 17-year-old.

“Why are you so nervous? You are breathing super hard; you are kind of sweaty. You are shaky, what’s going on. What’s got you so worried.”

The teen’s mother said the 17-year-old is an honor roll student and star athlete, who has never been in trouble.

“Your license isn’t suspended, revoked anything like that brother?”

“No, sir,” said the teen.

“No knives grenades anything like that in the car. Nothing illegal?”

“No, sir.”

“No weed, no crack, no dead prostitutes, no nothing?”

“No, sir.”

“Do you mind if I check?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I can, cool.”

Chief Michael Snellgrove said his officer was trying to ease the tensions by asking the teen these questions. Snellgrove agrees referencing a dead prostitute could be considered unprofessional but doesn’t believe the officer crossed any boundaries.

Shortly after the traffic stop, UAH’s president Darren Dawson publicly apologized and promised better transparency between the university and the police department moving forward.

Chief Snellgrove said he encouraged university leadership to release the footage, but they refused.

Chief Snellgrove tells us he was not allowed to be involved with the internal affairs investigation between the officers involved. He said he was told to cancel his meeting with the teen’s parents and the matter was being handled exclusively by the president’s office, the chancellor, and the system’s attorneys.

In January, the school announced two of the officers involved in the traffic stop, as well as Snellgrove, were no longer employed by the university. Snellgrove said he wasn’t fired because of the incident, rather he retired after a lifelong career in law enforcement because he didn’t believe the university had the best interest of the police department in mind.

The officer who pulled the teen over resigned from his position with UAH and is now working at another department in town.

We reached out to the university letting administration know we were given a copy of the footage. We asked for a sit-down interview with Mr. Dawson. That request was denied. A spokesperson for the university said the president was unavailable.

The family of the teen pulled over said they are pleased with the way UAH handled the investigation and are ready to put this past them.

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