A Philly man has become an Internet sensation due to his video of a Philly police officer pulling him over last week.
Northeast Philly resident Tony Soto, 28, posted video of a traffic stop where he calmly and eloquently defended his rights to a police officer who pulled him over, citing the tinted windows on Soto’s car.
In the video, Soto is seen showing the officer his PennDOT “sun-screening permit” for tinted windows due to eyesight problems.
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“That invalidates your traffic stop, sir,” Soto tells the cop. “Alright. What’s your second reason?”
“Your headlight is out,” the officer responds in the video, which was shot around 7:30 p.m. on March 25 in the 15th District, near the corner of Vandike and Knorr streets, a block away from the Tacony Free Library on Torresdale Avenue.
“No it’s not. Both my headlights are on,” Soto says in the video.
Soto told Metro he turned on his iPhone camera and put the phone in his dashboard mount as soon as he was pulled over, out of fear for his safety.
“In the video I remain calm, but my heart was beating super fast. He’s listing these violations, but I know my lights are on,” Soto said. “‘How is this gonna end?’ kept running through my mind.”
The 13-minute video continues as Soto demands that the officer call for a supervisor. He refuses to step out of the vehicle or open his door — at which point the officer opens the car door.
“You don’t have the right to open my door, sir. You’re violating my constitutional rights now,” Soto can be heard saying as the officer opens the door. “For your safety and my safety I’m sitting in this vehicle and I’m requesting your supervisor.”
Soto also flashes a badge, which he calls "my fire marshall's badge," and shows to the camera, during the encounter. Soto refused to show this badge to Metro or confirm its authenticity or origin.
At one point Soto tells the officer that the stop is being videotaped.
“I’m glad you think you can change the world,” the officer says later.
“I’m not changing the world,” Soto replies. “We’re gonna change it, one person at a time.”
The stop ends with Soto being let go without being ticketed. No supervisor ever shows up.
Lt. John Stanford of the Philadelphia Police Department said the stop was not inappropriate, and that Soto was not within his rights to refuse to provide his driver’s license and insurance information, citing section 6308(A) of the vehicle code.
“The officer had every right to stop him,” Stanford said — pointing out that Soto had “colored” tint, which would not be covered by a PennDOT permit.
Stanford said opening the door was not inappropriate because the way Soto was acting “raised [their] suspicions.”
Watch the video below:
“That’s not how you conduct yourself when you interact with the police,” Stanford said. "Looking at the tape, the officers are extremely poised and treat him with a tremendous amount of restraint."
But Soto isn’t excited about being internet-famous. The video has earned him a lot of anger from police officers, he said, including some in other states.
“The backlash behind the video going viral is, from the police, all types of threats, all different things, they’re trying to assassinate my character,” he said.
This hurts Soto, who said he counts many police officers as friends.
“The video is just to show what gets overlooked, what happens on a daily basis — these police officers are stopping people for no reason,” said Soto, who has filed a complaint with the Police Advisory Commission.
Soto also expressed gratitude that the officer who speaks to him in the video was “professional.”
“I commend him for being professional, but not for his other actions. His other actions were completely out of line,” Soto said.
“I just wanted to show people this is actually real. This happens. We as a people need to do something about it.”
Correction: Soto was previously identified as a volunteer firefighter. He has declined to specify the nature of where he volunteers and as this information cannot be verified it has been removed from this article.