FACT CHECK: Did a young white man have a moving interaction with a black police officer, later discovering that the traffic ticket he received had been voided?

Claim:   A young white man had a moving interaction with a black police officer, and later discovered that the traffic ticket he received had been voided.

  UNDETERMINED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail and Facebook, September 2015]

This feelgood story is quickly going viral.

Yet there is not a single verifiable fact presented. I have asked Mike Power’s the poster of the story to provide some form of validation for his story, ideally the said speeding ticket. His response was that it has personal information on it… Surely if he wanted to prove this was a true story he could find a way to redact any personal information.

Thank you for your time.

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Driving through Mississippi this morning I got pulled over for speeding. A huge black cop got out of the car. Mr. Olympia walked up and asked for my license and insurance. He came back, informed me I was speeding and handed me my ticket. As he started to walk away I asked him how he’s handling everything and how the cops are feeling in Mississippi with all of the senseless killings this week throughout the country. He said “things are tough, but we’re hanging in there and just trying to do the right thing and keep people safe…but it’s scary”. I told him “just so you know, a lot of people are standing with you all and respect the risks you take every day to keep us safe.” I took my bracelet off and told him that I give these out to my family, friends, and military members who might need extra protection and that I hope it will keep him safe. He took the bracelet, put it on, and his eyes started to tear up. I saw how much pain and stress this man and his family were probably under. I teared up too. As he walked away he said “this means more than you can imagine”. I came to find out my ticket was voided… so I’ll be donating the money to the “Palmer Home for Children” charity in Mississippi.

Two grown ass men, of different color, careers, upbringing, and journeys, who had never met before, sitting on the side of the road in Mississippi tearing up over how confusing and hate filled the world has become…shocked by random acts of kindness…realizing we aren’t alone in a world where evil tries to divide us every chance it gets.

Origins:   On 2 September 2015, Facebook user Mike Powers published the status update and photograph excerpted above. Later the same day Powers posted a lengthy followup video noting that the veracity of his story had been questioned but not providing any details to substantiate it.

From the scant information Powers offered in his anecdote, his interaction with the “huge black cop” (Mr. Olympia, not “Officer Olympia”) occurred on the morning of 2 September 2015 at an unspecified location in the state of Mississippi. As Powers related it, Mr. Olympia ticketed him for speeding; Powers then caught the officer off guard by asking a sympathetic question and purportedly offered the wooden bracelet depicted to the officer as a safety talisman. Mr. Olympia was visibly moved (to tears, even) by the trinket, and Powers claimed he later “came to find out [his] ticket was voided,” inspiring him to donate the amount of the traffic fine he would have had to pay to a children’s charity.

In the way of evidence, Powers’ tale was certainly light. The photograph of the bracelet involved (presumably) only his arm, and no images of the road, traffic stop, the officer, or other details related to the story were shared by its narrator. Powers published the story on 2 September 2015 and stated it occurred that morning, but he did not explain how he came to learn his ticket had been “voided” so quickly. It didn’t sound as if Mr. Olympia verbally indicated at the scene that Powers’ ticket had been somehow dismissed, so Powers presumably would had to have learned about the reciprocal favor in another fashion.

We contacted the Biloxi Police Department to ask whether it was possible for a speeding ticket to be dismissed or “voided” after it was written in the manner described here (and whether the person cited could know such an action had been taken the same day he received the citation). The representative to whom we spoke said that that sort of discretion exists in some jurisdictions but not in others, and that the process of quashing a moving violation was more complex than suggested here. The rep also told us that it would technically be possible to learn of such a cancellation by calling the court to determine the amount of the fine (and presumably learning at that time that the ticket had been voided).

As the primary example indicated, Powers didn’t offer up a picture of the ticket with identifying information redacted as further proof of his interaction. While the bracelet seen in the photograph is on his (and not Mr. Olympia’s) wrist, Powers said he was in the habit of gifting the trinkets to loved ones as a protective measure.

Jackson, Mississippi, station WJTV reported that the story was true in a segment that featured on-camera comments from both Mike Powers and the trooper, Jason Ales, affirming that events unfolded as described in the initial Facebook post:

Mike Powers says he was dreading his drive from Nashville, Tennessee to Mississippi after his boss said he needed to travel for work Wednesday morning.

When he was pulled over in Batesville by highway patrol, he thought his day may be getting worse, but things quickly took a turn.

“I just had a feeling I needed to ask him how his day was going. I said how are you and how are the officers in Mississippi doing in light of all the senseless killings of police officers. He said he’s doing good and it’s tough and he was going to keep doing what he needed to do to help people,” says Powers.

After Trooper Jason Ales gave Powers a speeding ticket, he said he decided to give him something back, a wooded saint bracelet.

“I was so touched by it I almost teared up there,” says Trooper Ales.

Trooper Ales, in turn, voided the speeding ticket.

“I gave this man a ticket now worth maybe two hundred something dollars, but still out of his kindness he wanted to give me something,” says Trooper Ales.

On 9 September 2015 Powers responded to a request for comment, stating that the story was true. He provided a link to a WSMV report, which included video capturing ticket (seen in the below screenshot) issued to him on 2 September 2015:

mike powers ticket

Nonetheless, some remain skeptical of the tale:

So which is it? Officer Olympia (as reported in Mr. Powers’ public FB post, which appears to be copied verbatim here on this news site)? Or Office Ales? And why won’t Mr. Powers make the voided ticket public, with his personal details redacted?

Are officers allowed to “take back” any legally issued citation on a whim for any reason? Is law enforcement subjective? Doesn’t this just prove the point that there is discrimination and favoritism happening? It seems to me that this story is yet another pathetic attempt to take away from the “Black Lives matter” movement. Why is this necessary? Is it really significant that it was a big black man who was the officer, dubbed “Mr Olympia” by the story’s author? What is this “story” really about? I feel like this is an attempt to gaslight the very real discussion regarding racial discrimination, bias and bigotry in this country. I’m tired of being told that these things are not real and there is no discrimination against people of color in this country.

Last updated:   9 September 2015

Originally published:    3 September 2015