SHINNSTON, W.Va. – A Fairmont man is facing several charges, and a lot of backlash on YouTube, following what started as a routine traffic stop in Shinnston.
On the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 7, a Shinnston Police officer pulled over a GMC pick-up truck driven by Michael Ray, 35, on U.S. Route 19, because the registration sticker on the vehicle’s license plate had expired in 2020, according to court documents.
The traffic stop, and what happened next, was recorded by Ray’s passenger and the police officers’ body cameras.
Following the incident, Ray initially posted the video on Youtube, under the title: “Lawful travel, a right to liberty, deprived with extreme behavior from loca…”(title cuts off). Ray’s post has since been taken down, but the video has been re-posted by several Youtubers and has gotten tens of thousands of views. The re-posts associate the original video with the Sovereign Citizen movement, a term used to describe people who do not believe laws and regulations apply to them.
Before the officer approaches Ray’s truck, the camera comes on and Ray’s passenger can be heard saying: “here we go, good time to practice.”
One of the re-posts, which can be seen below, had been viewed more than 27,500 times, when this article was written. Another version of the video, posted by a Pittsburgh attorney, had nearly 4,000 views. There are hundreds of comments on these YouTube posts questioning Ray’s actions and praising the police officers.
In the videos, the exchange starts off friendly enough, as the officer asks Ray “how you doing?” and Ray responds, “Good Day.” The officer then asks Ray if he knows why he was pulled over and tells him that his “plates are dead.”
The officer asks Ray for his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. Ray repeatedly asks if he “is being detained.” Ray also asks if the officer’s request is an order and if he is required to comply. The officer quickly tells Ray that he will give him another chance to turn over the documents and if he doesn’t, the officer will call for back-up and arrest him.
Ray continues to question the officer about his authority and why he is being detained, asking several questions repeatedly, at one point asking, “are you ordering me to do a thing?” and continues “I know my rights.”
The officer remains calm, telling Ray, “I have no problem with you, other than you’re not giving me your driver’s license. Why such a hard line here?” he asks.
Ray asks the officer how he knows that handing over your driver’s license is a requirement. “The State Police Academy, 39 years of training and 39 years of being on the job. That’s why I know,” the officer responds.
After several minutes of the back and forth, Shinnston Police Chief Jon Harbert arrives. Ray asks the chief if he is a public servant, to which Harbert replies, “I’m the chief of police. Don’t pull this crap with me. You will be pulled out of the car if you don’t follow lawful orders.” Ray then locks the truck’s door.
The chief warns Ray several times that he’ll be arrested, if he doesn’t comply with the officer’s request for his license. As Ray continues to ignore the request, the chief reaches through the open window to open the truck’s door and Ray pushes his arm away and says “sir, get your hands out of my car,” while attempting to roll up the window. Chief Harbert then aims his stun gun at Ray as he and his officer order Ray to open the door.
Ray continues to argue with the officers and suggests to his passenger, “we gotta call the police.”
“This is breaking and entering!” the passenger shouts as the chief applies the stun gun to Ray, who screams in pain, as he is pulled outside of the truck and taken into custody.
During this, the passenger begins cursing at the officers, until a third officer shows up, orders him out of the truck and takes him into custody as well.
Officers found that Ray’s license, registration and vehicle inspection were all expired, according to Ray’s criminal complaints. He is charged with battery on an officer and obstructing an officer.