In 2015, African-American schoolteacher Breaion King was stopped for a minor traffic violation in Austin, Texas – and what should have been a routine encounter quickly escalated into a harrowing arrest that was captured in detail by police dash cams.
Recently nominated for an Academy Award® for Documentary Short Subject, TRAFFIC STOP illuminates timely, resonant issues of race and law enforcement while offering an intimate portrait of one woman in the wake of her traumatic arrest. From the Emmy®- and Peabody Award-winning team of director Kate Davis and producer David Heilbroner (HBO’s “The Newburgh Sting,” “Southern Comfort” and “Jockey”), the documentary debuts MONDAY, FEB. 19 (8:00-8:35 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
The film will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW, HBO GO and affiliate portals beginning Feb. 16, before its debut on the main HBO channel.
On June 15, 2015, a car driven by vibrant, 26-year-old African-American schoolteacher Breaion King was pursued by a police officer in Austin, Texas. As seen on the patrol car’s dash cam, Officer Bryan Richter closed in on King’s car over the course of several blocks, and eventually caught up with her in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, where she exited her car.
Ordered to return to her vehicle, the 108-pound King soon found herself in a brutal struggle with Officer Richter, who was eventually joined at the scene by two other police officers, as dash cams and interior cameras recorded the events that followed. En route to the county jail, handcuffed in the back seat of a backup police officer’s squad car, King engaged the officer in a surprisingly candid conversation about race.
A motivated, dedicated schoolteacher and dancer who had never been arrested before, King was raised by a single mother, who died when she was a teenager. She’s proud of being the first in her family to buy her own home, graduate from college and get an M.A., and aspires to earn a doctorate eventually. TRAFFIC STOP juxtaposes raw footage of King’s arrest and conversation with scenes from her everyday routine, offering a vivid portrait of a woman whose life is forever changed one afternoon by a sudden encounter with law enforcement.
As King goes about her daily activities – attending church, teaching math to her young students and rehearsing modern dance routines at the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility – she understands how the incident with Officer Richter has had a lasting impact on her life. Looking back, she notes, “I thank God that I’m alive to tell my story, and to be able to stand up.” Although her injuries have healed, she maintains, “You get over the physical, but it’s getting over the spiritual and the mental” that has been difficult.
King’s lawsuit against Officer Richter – who remained on active duty for more than two years after her arrest – is still pending. Earlier this year, following another violent incident, Richter was dismissed from the force. Police union officials plan to appeal.
In addition to its Oscar® nomination, TRAFFIC STOP won the Grand Jury Prize in the Shorts Competition at DOC NYC 2017.
TRAFFIC STOP was directed by Kate Davis; produced by David Heilbroner; edited by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner; director of photography, Tom Bergmann; original music by Joel Harrison; co-producer, Nancy Knox Talcott. For HBO: senior producer, Lisa Heller; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.