Wareham mother says police racially profiled her son

Police chief says matching car ‘had to be checked out’
Jun 14, 2022

Jody Santagate wants people to know that she loves Wareham, that she has great respect for law enforcement and that members of her family have served in the force.

But the way her youngest son was treated when he was stopped by Wareham police on Saturday, she says, did not follow protocol. She said her son was detained by police in the aftermath of a reported shooting in Onset on Saturday.

“I need to make an example that this is not the way police conduct themselves,” said Santagate, a former Select Board candidate. “I believe my son was racially profiled.”

Nothing matching Santagate's description of the incident appears on Wareham police logs for Saturday.

Police Chief Walter Correia shared a comment on the incident on Tuesday afternoon.

“I understand and can appreciate why the mother is upset that her son was detained but the officers were reacting to the information that was given to them at the time of the event and unfortunately her son and his friends were in a vehicle that was reported to be involved in the incident and it had to be checked out,” Correia said in an email. “As I stated to the mother, if her son was shot and we got information about a possible vehicle involved, I'd expect the Officers to do the exact same thing they did this past Saturday. Once it was determined that her son and his passengers were not involved, they were free to leave the area.”

Her 17-year-old son, who is Cape Verdean and Wampanoag, drove her black Honda to a store in Onset early Saturday afternoon to buy a Slurpee, Santagate said.He picked up some friends, his mother said, and started driving up Onset Avenue. Soon, he noticed that he was being followed by an unmarked police car, Santagate said.

At Aunt Hannah’s Lane, Santagate said he saw a lot of traffic and police officers, and that one cop approached the car and told her son to pull over and get out of the car.

She said the officer threw her son against the car, forcefully patted him down and hand-cuffed him before putting her son in the back of a police cruiser.

Her son was in the car for 22 minutes without air-conditioning, which she said she knows because of an app on her son’s phone she uses to track his whereabouts.

State police officers reportedly later took her son out of the car and sat him on the sidewalk, she said, where his friends also sat hand-cuffed along Onset Avenue.

Photos Santagate provided show her son and three other boys sitting on the sidewalk along Onset Avenue, hands behind their backs, while police officers stand nearby. At least one of the other boys is Cape Verdean, Santagate said, and none are white.

Wareham Week is blurring the boys' faces as they're reportedly all minors and have not been charged with any crime, according to court records and police logs.

Beyond how her son was treated, Santagate said, she shared her concerns that the police reportedly searched her car without a warrant and didn’t ask for her son’s identification. They followed her son in her car, she said, because of a report that the Onset shooter was allegedly in a black car.

Santagate doubted that the color of her car was the only reason her son was pulled over, noting that it’s unlikely hers was the only black car in the area Saturday afternoon.

“If white kids [or] youth got in that car, they would not have been followed,” Santagate said.

“He did not deserve one bit of what he just endured because of police misconduct,” Santagate said. “Someone needs to be held accountable for their actions.”

She shared photos on Monday of her son’s wrists, which still had red indentations from the handcuffs he’d worn two days prior.

Santagate emphasized that her sons are good kids. Her youngest, who was stopped by police on Saturday, was awarded the Scotty Monteiro Jr. award in March. The award honors a Wareham man who was shot and killed in 2009.

Santagate said she has reached out to Wareham’s police chief and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe police, and she expects a thorough investigation.