Friends and fellow Baptist ministers Demetrius Williams and John Patterson had squeezed out some time from their busy schedules one May morning to go fishing in Jefferson County.
On their way home to Milwaukee around noon, a tire on Patterson's boat trailer went flat. He pulled his Chevy Silverado to the shoulder of Interstate 94 in Brookfield and called his insurance company, who said a tow truck would be out to install the spare in about 30 or 40 minutes.
Traffic was whizzing by and both men said they felt relief when a Waukesha County sheriff's patrol car pulled up behind them. "We thought maybe he was going to put out some cones or something," Patterson said.
Deputy Erik Michalsen asked if they had called for a squad. Patterson said, no, he had called his insurer and help was on the way.
Then, the men say, Michalsen asked, "Do you have any guns or drugs in the vehicle?" They adamantly said no, noting they were both pastors.
Next, he asked for both men's driver's licenses — standard procedure, he said. He returned the licenses about 10 minutes later, slapped an orange sticker on the boat, and left the friends fuming.
"We're pastors, driving home from fishing, and yet we're treated with suspicion when we should have been offered assistance," Williams recounted last week.
"We were just stranded," Patterson said. Instead of help, they "got background checked and treated like criminals because we're African-American men."
"We drove home feeling violated," Patterson said.
Group seeks others' stories
Now a faith-based community action group, Common Ground, is launching its own investigation into possible racial profiling by the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department. It held a news conference outside the Waukesha County Courthouse on Monday to present Williams' and Patterson's account, and ask other drivers to share their experiences with Waukesha County deputies.
They passed out fliers with #WaukeshaSheriffStories.
"Take this to your churches, families, neighbors and workplaces," said Gwen Mosier, a white woman from Pewaukee.
"How does their story sit with you?" she asked. "Would everyone be treated this way?"
Read more: https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/2018/08/27/2-pastors-who-pulled-over-flat-tire-questioned-guns-drugs/1067496002/