A suburban Chicago police officer has been caught on camera telling a teenager that he was being detained "because he's white". The video, posted on Facebook on Monday (27 November), has gone viral and so far received nearly 50,000 views.
The concerned officer, Esteban Gomez of the Lake Villa police department, has been "disciplined", the department said and described it as a behaviour "unbecoming" of an officer.
Dezi Baczek, a friend of the detained teenage boy, shot and uploaded the video. She wrote on the social media site that the incident took place when she, along with her friends, had gone to a pawn shop in Lake Villa to sell an item to be able to buy a book for her younger brother.
Baczek told NBC5 News that while they were walking out of the store, detective Gomez came up to them and yelled at her.
"I was yelled at to sit down. I said, 'What's the reason?' and he said sit down or I could turn around and be arrested, so I sat down at that point," she said.
The video also showed the officer screaming at one of the teens when he asked what he did wrong. "Wanna be hard with me? Be hard with me, go ahead. Think you're a tough guy?" Gomez is heard saying.
He later started walking away, but suddenly turned around and told the group, "Who's got the weed on them?" When the group reacted to his comment, he turned around once again and said "Did someone say f**k off?" When the friends responded with a no, detective Gomez pointed at two of the teens.
One of them then asked the detective if he was being detained for being a "teen" and for wearing "baggy pants". The detective then replied saying "Because you're white," and continued to walk away.
Elaborating on the incident, Lake Villa police chief Craig Somerville told the news channel that the detective was conducting a theft investigation when he stopped the group for questioning.
According to Somerville, Gomez had informed him about the incident and it being captured on video. "Detective Gomez admitted his words were poorly chosen and insensitive and he immediately regretted what he had said. The Lake Villa Police Department does not condone this type of behaviour of its officers," Somerville added.
Gomez was disciplined for his behaviour, which was "unbecoming" of an officer, the police chief noted.
"I apologise to anyone who may have been offended by what is depicted on this video," Somerville said. "This occurred on my watch and I assume full responsibility."