Oscar-Nominated ‘Traffic Stop’ Explores Violent Arrest of Breaion King

By Sameer Rao Feb 16, 2018

Breaion King still lives with the trauma of a violent 2015 arrest where one White Austin Police Department (APD) officer threw her on the pavement and another demeaned her with anti-Black rhetoric. She explains as much in the above trailer for "Traffic Stop," a short documentary about her harrowing experience. The film, which received a 2018 Oscar nomination for Best Documentary (Short Subject), premiered yesterday (February 19) on HBO

"Everything in me is fighting to get over it," King, who is Black, says in the trailer while she watches dashboard camera footage of the arrest. "You get over the physical, but it’s getting over the spiritual and the mental [that is difficult]. But I thank God that I am alive to tell my story." 

The 32-minute documentary weaves Breaion’s account of the arrest with scenes from her everyday life as an elementary school math teacher in Austin, Texas. As The Austin American-Statesman recounts, Breaion’s ordeal began in 2015, when APD officers Bryan Richter and Patrick Spradlin pulled Breaion over in a Wendy’s parking lot for speeding. The dash cam video, which The American-Stateman and local ABC affiliate station KVUE-TV released a year later, shows Richter pulling Breaion out of her car and throwing her across the adjacent empty parking space within seven seconds of approach. Breaion was charged with resisting arrest, which the Travis County attorney’s office dismissed after reviewing the footage.

The video also includes a clip of Breion talking with Spradlin, who drove her to the police station. Spradlin told her that he believed White people and other police officers feared Black communities because of their "violent tendencies."

Local NBC affiliate KXAN-TV reported at the time that the video prompted an internal investigation by the APD into both officers. The Austin Chronicle wrote that Richter and Spradlin were assigned to desk duty until the end of the investigation. An arrest report notes that the department mandated additional training for Richter, but the inquiry ended with no departmental charges for the officers.

The Austin Chronicle noted in 2016 that a Travis County grand jury found Richter not guilty of criminal use of force in arresting King. Spradlin was not charged for his role in the arrest.

King sued Richter and the city of Austin for excessive force and racial discrimination in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in 2016. The court dismissed her suit against the city, but advanced the one against Richter; King refiled the complaint against Austin in December 2016, and KXAN-TV reports that both lawsuits were pending as of January 2018.

The American-Statesman reported last month that the APD later fired Richter following a separate use of force complaint. "Knowing that he is no longer out there, I feel more at peace," King told The American-Statesman about the news of Richter’s termination.

HBO subscribers can stream "Traffic Stop" via HBO.com and the company’s apps.