Randell Minott has earned widespread praise for a viral video in which he berated a police officer who, he said, pulled him over and approached with his gun drawn — just because he forget to signal a turn. But Minott also inspired many questions — ones he came forward to address in a detailed interview with TheWrap.
The video, shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter, fueled discussions about racial profiling and overzealous cops — especially in light of NFL player Michael Bennett recently accusing police of profiling him, and countless cases of unarmed African-American men, like Minott, finding themselves at the ends of officers’ service weapons.
“When people say, oh, I went overboard [in the video], they don’t understand what was going through my mind at that time,” Minott told TheWrap. “The more and more I started talking to him, I started realizing this guy could have made a mistake and killed me over a f—ing turn signal.”
Minott said the incident occurred on Sept. 6 in Kansas City, Missouri — and provided a citation that confirmed those details. The New Jersey-based DJ, who sometimes performs under the name Jimmy Spliff, said he was visiting Missouri for work.
Once the video went viral, many praised Minott for his courage and nuance as he emotionally took the officer to task. But some on Twitter and Reddit cast suspicion on his account, noting that the officer in the video is not seen with his gun out. Skeptics wondered if Minott was just looking for internet fame.
Minott told TheWrap he didn’t begin recording himself and the officer until the officer had holstered his gun because he wanted to be sure he wasn’t in danger.
“Why the hell would I reach for a phone or reach for anything if he has a gun pointed at me? He [had] a gun pointed at me, I didn’t say anything to him until he re-holstered the gun,” Minott said.
The officer seen in the video had a partner, he said, and the partner wrote him a citation for missing a turn signal. He said the citation identified the officer who issued it as Jacob Alexander, of the city’s Metro Division, but it was unclear whether Alexander or his partner is the officer seen in the video.
Police did not respond to repeated requests for comment from TheWrap this week.
Minott said he first encountered the officers before they pulled him over and he recorded the video. A few minutes earlier in the night, he had seen them pull someone over at a gas station. A brief staredown ensued, he said.
“Everyone at the gas station was looking at the situation,” he told TheWrap. “When I drove out of the gas station, that same cop that you see in the video, he stared me down before pulling out of the gas station, and I stared back, not to stare at him, but to stare at the situation… I was just interested in what was going on, like most people, you see police lights, you look.”
After about five to seven minutes of driving, Minott went up a hill. When he came down, he noticed the police lights signaling to pull over. “The first thing that I thought was, maybe I got a little heavy on the foot, going down the hill,” Minott said, explaining that he thought he might be caught in a speed trap.
“I pulled over immediately, it wasn’t any problem,” Minott said.
He took out his paperwork, knowing the officer would ask for it. But, he said, he was stunned to see that the officer was approaching him with his gun unholstered. He said he presented no danger.
“So that’s kind of what pissed me off,” Minott said.
When the officer realized he wasn’t holding anything but paperwork, he put away the gun. But things could have gone differently, Minott said.
“What if I had seen the gun and gotten nervous? I would have jumped, that would in turn make him nervous, and he would have shot me. And it would have all been a mistake, but I’m sorry, that’s just not a mistake I can accept,” Minott said.
While he waited for the partner of the officer who had pulled his gun to write him a citation, Minott explained, he began recording himself and the officer — and delivered his now-famous speech into the camera.
“Turn signal not made is a big enough of a crime for you to feel like you need to take out your service pistol,” Minott said in the video, which is about three minutes long. “Right? Right? Right? That’s what’s up.”
According to a 2015 Kansas City Star report that compares Kansas City police shootings to those of similar cities, only Fresno, California, had more fatal police shootings than Kansas City from 2005 through 2014. According to the same report, nearly 60 percent of the people killed in 2015 were black.
Minott said he didn’t necessarily want his video to turn into “a race issue,” but rather wanted to point out to the officer that he needed to show more self-control.
“If he shot me, if I was shot and killed, it would just be brushed off as another black person shot and killed and nothing would have happened,” Minott said.
“I don’t know him from anywhere to call him racist, but I just know what he did to put my life in jeopardy,” he said.
Minott licensed his video through licensing company Viral Hog, a company that, according to their website, “distributes content to major news and media outlets around the world including ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, Fox, BBC, and all the major Japanese TV networks.” He wasn’t trying to make money off the video, but to protect it in case it was misused online, Minott said.