TODAY

TODAY   |  October 02, 2013

Actor couple: We were racially profiled by police

Actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White are speaking out about what they say was a case of racially profiling by South Carolina police involving a traffic stop. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said they “will take immediate and appropriate action,” to investigate. NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo reports.

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>> hollywood couple that claims they were unfairly targeted and questioned by police in south carolina is speaking out this morning. mara has details on that. good morning to you.

>> good morning. they're opening up about the way they say they were treated by a marion county sheriff's deputy. they were on their way to a romantic get away but ended up in handcuffs.

>> i've got to rush to get ready.

>> actor cherry johnson best known for her rolls in punky br brewster and family matters and her boyfriend were driving to myrtle beach when pulled over by a south carolina police officer and issued a ticket for speeding. a short time later the couple stopped to take pictures along the side of the road . when they returned to their car, another police officer had pulled up behind them.

>> she was like, i'm just taking a picture. put her hands up and he reached for -- he grabbed for his gun and said get in the car.

>> at that point i was kind of like, whoa.

>> the couple says they were questioned by the officer who asked them to step out of the car. according to the couple the officer initially claimed there was a warrant out for johnson's arrest and that's when they say things got worse.

>> i said, sir, are you doing this because we're black? and he kind of just patted the car and gave me a look and walked to his car. the next thing i knew he was putting on his gloves and he was handcuffing dennis. i couldn't understand why he was handcuffing him. we didn't do anything wrong.

>> reporter: the couple says the officer then accused them of having drugs in the car.

>> i said what was your probable cause ? why do you feel that you need to search the car? and he told me there could be a dead body in the trunk. that was the only probable cause he gave.

>> reporter: after searching the car and finding nothing, the officer let them go. the marion county sheriff's office released a statement saying racial profiling is strictly prohibited and they will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the allegations.

>> i was praying and i just wanted to call my mom. i was scared for our life.

>> i just felt like there was nothing that we could have done to prevent that situation.

>> the marion county sheriff's office says they've asked the state law enforcement division to review the allegations as well. they say they have taken to social media to tell their story hoping that law enforcement takes racial profiling seriously and gives appropriate training to officers. so a vacation they say turned bad.

>>> thank you.