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Woman who questioned officer drawing firearm is charged with fraud

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TAMPA — A 23-year-old woman who recorded a video of her encounter with a Tampa police officer who drew his weapon during a June stolen vehicle stop — attracting widespread attention — was arrested Tuesday on charges of failure to return a leased vehicle and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Joneshia Wilkerson was pulled over by a Tampa police officer investigating a report of a stolen car on June 18. She recorded a cell phone video of the encounter and later posted in on Instagram, drawing more than 50,000 viewers. In it, an officer drew his weapon and aimed it toward the car as she complied with his commands.

“I told him numerous times I can get out the car and I’m not arm yet he still pointed his gun at me I was scared and in fear with my life … ” she wrote on an Instagram post sharing the video. She later removed the video.

In response, Tampa police released the longer footage from the arresting officer’s body camera, but did not remove the audio of Wilkerson giving her personal information, including her address, to police. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida later called for an investigation into whether police personnel broke the law, and officials took down that video.

Wilkerson told the officer she had borrowed the car from a friend to use briefly and knew nothing else about it and was quickly released. She later told the Tampa Bay Times the friend was financing a car and stopped paying.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office now says it was Wilkerson who rented the car and failed to return it for more than two weeks.

The case started June 2, detectives say, when Wilkerson used a stolen credit card to rent a black Nissan Altima from the Hertz Car Rental at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. The car was due back on June 6, but Wilkerson never returned it. When Hertz tried to contact the renter, investigators said, the company discovered the card was stolen and filed a stolen vehicle report with Pinellas deputies on June 18.

That same day, Wilkerson was pulled over by a Tampa police officer.

Pinellas detectives said Wilkerson was seen in surveillance footage renting the car and was identified by employees there. They said she used a friend’s driver’s license and provided the same phone number she later gave to Tampa officers.

The credit card number belonged to a victim in Indiana who was still has their original card.

Will Anderson, an attorney who has been working with Wilkerson, said he has not yet spoken to her about the charges. But he said Tampa police still mishandled the June 18 stop.

The Tampa Police Department has special procedures for alerting officers when they are dealing with family members who borrow but don’t return a car, he said. There should be a similar protocol in place distinguishing between an unreturned rental car and a stolen vehicle, he said.

“A failure to re-deliver a leased vehicle does not warrant a felony stop with a gun,” he said.

Wilkerson, an Army Reservist and mother, has spoken out about her treatment and called for people to support a GoFundMe campaign to pay for her legal and moving fees. So far it has raised more than $7,000.

She attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Tampa on July 24 and spoke about the harassment she had received after her information was shared. Wilkerson was arrested in Riverview and was being held Tuesday in the Hillsborough County jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.

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