It was March 6, 2014 when a simple drive home resulted in a meteor of chaos crushing down on Greg Zullo, an African-American Vermonter and Castleton University student.
But that day also became an initial step toward a significant legal change.
He was driving through Wallingford on his way to a friend’s house from his job at Pico when he is followed by a Vermont State Police car.
“He follows me from Cumbies (Cumberland farms) through Wallingford, essentially followed me through town the minute I entered it, ” Zullo said. “They cut out the first part of the video, but he was following for a while.”
Zullo felt like he was a victim of racial profiling when he was pulled over for what the trooper said was snow covering his registration sticker on his license plate, which at the time was not illegal.
The trooper, Lewis Hatch, claimed he smelled burnt marijuana, but Zullo said the smell “came from a cig my friend smoked earlier.” Hatch asked questions about the eye drops, lighter and the air freshener in the car.
Shortly after, the drug dogs were called out and Zullo said it seemed “they are trained to bark at black people.” After he refused to allow the search, Zullo’s car was towed and he was left to walk about eight miles home in the cold with just a hoodie.
According to a report from Stewart Ledbetter from NBC5, Hatch reportedly told another trooper, “I can smell weed. He won’t let me search it, so I’m just going to take it.”
The pullover interaction lasted about an hour and a half and is available to see on Youtube, posted by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Later in the day, Zullo was able to recover the vehicle for a fee of $150. The car was searched and police found a grinder and part of a corn cob pipe Zullo said was from years ago and not recently used – and neither are illegal.