NewsRegionBaltimore City


Body worn camera reveals Vignarajah was driving on suspended tags

Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-21 17:10:24-05

BALTIMORE — "Your headlights are not on."

"I just turned them off for a minute."

"I saw you with them off. You got a license and registration tonight, sir?"

That's how a nearly one hour body worn camera video began, after an officer pulled over Baltimore Mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah the night of September 26, 2019, in the 2400 block of Greenmount Avenue.

In the video, the officer tells Vignarajah he was only going to issue a warning

After running his license and registration, the officer comes back and asks Vignarajah if he recently got a repair order, because his tags were coming back suspended.

Vignarajah admitted to receiving a repair order, but insisted he'd taken care of it by having an officer sign off on it at an auto parts shop at Edmondson Village.

When asked if he turned in the signed order, Vignarajah responded "I thought I would have done that, but I can't be certain of that."

The officer tells Vignarajah he will need to take possession of the tags, and return them to the MVA because a car cannot be driven with suspended plates. The officer gives Vignarajah the courtesy of multiple options to avoid having his car towed by police, including calling Triple A, a friend, or a personal tow truck.

Vignarajah says he rather park the car on a nearby street. The officer says it wouldn't be a good idea to park a car without tags, because it might get broken into, "then that's on me," says the officer

"I can't just drive it home," Vignarajah asks, at which point the officer again gives him the option of having a personal tow truck or police tow the car.

Vignarajah then engages in an extensive back and forth with the officer about what legal basis he was stopped, and whether or not his headlights were on.

Throughout a good portion of the video, an unidentified woman is seen sitting in the front passenger seat of Vignarajah's car. He tells the officer that he's giving her a tour of the area where he prosecuted gang violence.

The officer goes back to his patrol car to give Vignarajah and the woman time to figure out what they want to do with the car.

Several minutes later the officer returns and asks the two if they decided what they wanted to do.

Vignarajah said yes, he did decide, that's why he honked his horn for the officer to come back.

While asking the officer for permission to allow the woman to leave in an Uber, Vignarajah lectures the officer "for officer safety reasons I can't get out of the car, you're aware of that right?"

Vignarajah continues by saying "You're 600 officers short, and that's what you're doing on Greenmount?"

"Do you want me to give you a ticket and we can go to the judge, do u want that route," the officer asks.

"Is that how you really want to handle this you wanna threaten me," Vignarajah answers.

"No, you, I'm not threatening you. You want me to write you a ticket," the officer replies.

"You already told me you were going to give me a warning," said Vignarajah.

"I'm not gonna have a court case with you out here," the officer says.

Eventually, Thiru asks for the name of the officer's sergeant.

After the officer calls for him on the radio, the sergeant shows up a short time later.

The officer is heard discussing with the sergeant what happened. The two talk about how to proceed, while the officer mentions "he's some type of lawyer or something."

"I'll probably get a number for this," meaning an internal affairs complaint, the officer says to which the sergeant replies it doesn't matter who he is.

After briefly speaking with Vignarajah, the sergeant comes back to the officer and leaves it up to him on how to handle the situation.

They ultimately agree to give Vignarajah back his tags, and have the officer follow him home, with only a warning and stop receipt.

Vignarajah spoke about the incident Tuesday afternoon, and questioned the timing of the video's release.

"It's no surprise that soon after we take the lead in the polls, have the lead in fundraising that this suddenly becomes news. This is the politics of distraction. We knew this was going to come. We appreciate the fact that the political establishment is not likely to give up power easily and this is what they do. They try to change the topic."

The entire traffic stop can be watched below.