Cocke County man questions traffic stop by unmarked sheriff’s deputy

NEWPORT (WATE) – A traffic stop in Cocke County turned into an arrest last week, but on Thursday the driver in the incident told his side of the story.

Robert Livingston says his rights were violated because the deputy who pulled him over was in an unmarked car and was not in uniform.

“I have the right to know who’s pulling me over if you’re in an unmarked vehicle, no uniform on and flash a badge,” said Livingston.

“I can buy all that stuff off E-Bay any day of the week.”

A passenger in the car had a cellphone camera rolling as the officer asked Livingston to get out of the car. At first Livingston refused.

“As a citizen I have the right to stand my ground,” said Livingston.

The video also showed Livingston calling 911 during the stop.

Once a uniformed officer arrived on scene, Livingston was arrested and is now facing charges for disorderly conduct, reckless driving, and improper lane change.

A copy of the report filed by the Cocke County Sheriff’s Office said a detective and two undercover narcotics officers saw Livingston’s car going 53 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone on Cosby Highway.

The investigators note that they turned on their emergency lights in their unmarked car.

“They were in a very well-lit, unmarked police unit in the middle of town in a highly populated area.” Said Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes.

“Based on watching the video, it appeared that the driver immediately escalated the situation, and began to simply be very defiant.”

Sheriff Fontes says every officer showed their badge and based on Tennessee law, an unmarked patrol car can make a traffic stop.

“They did get a little more stern with him, they did repeatedly knock on his window, we discussed that issue as well; however, the fact remains this individual violated Tennessee law,” said Sheriff Fontes.

“I could’ve been politer. But I sincerely did fear they might not be law enforcement,” said Livingston.

Body camera footage from both officers and Livingston’s video have been watched, critiqued and will be used by the sheriff’s office for training.

Livingston is expected to be in Cocke County court on January 30 for his first appearance before a judge.

“Obviously I feel that I broke no laws. I believe justice will be done in the courtroom,” said Livingston.

“It comes down to the simple fact that this individual created a situation that was very unnecessary,” said Sheriff Fontes.

Livingston’s story quickly became popular after he posted the video from the incident on Facebook.

Sheriff Fontes commented on the video saying, “I never said you were guilty, just state the facts. Dude – you have a beautiful family and are a good guy.”

Livingston later posted on social media that despite whatever happens in the legal system, he thinks Sheriff Fontes is a great sheriff and will always have his vote.

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