Arrest Made After Hoax 911 Call Prompted Turnpike Traffic Stop

As a follow up to this report of high school kids returning from a college visit being stopped by NJ State Police with guns drawn. There couldn’t be a worse close to the story… Parents take note. Get your kids.

Newark, NJ—An arrest has been made in the case of a 911 call that claimed teenagers had brandished weapons at a turnpike rest area.

The ensuing traffic stop, during which state troopers drew their rifles, has caused claims of racial profiling, as the van that was stopped was full of minority teenagers from Queens. The 11 teens, who were accompanied by three chaperons, were returning from a field trip to Howard University. Safe Space NYC, a social service agency that helps disadvantaged children get out of the foster care system, had organized the trip.

One of the teenagers who was riding in the van, Rodney Tanzymore, allegedly made the call to authorities which led up to the traffic stop. According to state police, Tanzymore—who gave him name as “David Smith,” and who was calling from an emergency cellphone of the kind that can only dial 911—said that passengers of the van had brandished handguns while stopped at a turnpike rest area. Although describing the van, “Smith” did not, however, indicate that he was a passenger on it.

Police have not commented on a possible motive.

Tanzymore, 19, was arrested at his home in Queens, N.Y., on Monday. He was charged with causing a false public alarm—a charge which carries up to five years in prison.

Surveillance tapes which were released by state police in December show the van being stopped, and the riders and driver being evacuated at gunpoint. They were then handcuffed and ordered to sit on the guardrail on the side of the road. The incident took place on the New Jersey Turnpike in Hamilton Township.

Some of the teenagers who were involved in the traffic stop later said that they were frightened by the officers approaching them with their weapons drawn. Others have been quoted as suggesting a racial motivation for the stop.

The controversy comes just months after the federal government ceased overseeing the state police. The oversight, which had been ordered by the courts, was a result of another turnpike traffic stop, during which three unarmed minority men were shot by troopers.

A supervisor allegedly informed the responding troopers that the situation was “high risk,” which they cite as the reason for approaching the van with their rifles drawn.

Spokespersons for the state police department say that their officers used the proper protocol, and acted professionally and appropriately, during the traffic stop.

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