A man used profanity and kept accosting a young woman wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rican flag, shouting comments such as, “Are you a citizen?” as she repeatedly asks a nearby police officer for help. The police said on Twitter that it’s investigating the officer’s response.
The video of the incident, that took place June 14 at the Caldwell Woods forest preserve in Chicago has gone viral, with more than 1 million views.
Mia Irizarry, 24, recorded the incident for over 30 minutes using Facebook Live. The video shows the man, referred to as Tim, approaching Irizarry multiple times while more than one police officer was at the scene.
“Officer can you, please? I’m renting this area and he’s harassing me about the shirt that I’m wearing,” said Irizarry, who states in the video more than once that she had secured a permit to use the park’s common area where the incident took place.
“If you’re not an American citizen, you should not be wearing that shirt,” the man said to Irizarry, as he occasionally moves inches from her face. He kept coming towards her several times while shouting comments such as, “You are not gonna change us” and “You are not gonna come here and change the United States of America.”
Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Since 1917, all Puerto Ricans — whether they live in the island or in the United States — are U.S. citizens.
Irizarry is heard several times asking a police officer who is watching the scene for help. “Officer, I do not feel comfortable in this area … Is there anything you can do?” Irizarry said.
Irizarry’s cousin, Nathan Arroyo was with her and he asked the man to leave Irizarry alone; at one point he stepped between and he pushed him away from Irizarry.
In the video, the police started questioning the man several minutes after the exchange.
“After the incident, we immediately launched an investigation pursuant to our personnel policies into the response of our officer,” the Forest Preserves Cook County said via Twitter.
Towards the end of the video, Irizarry and Arroyo are seen filing a complaint against Tim.
“He approached me many times and I even asked you to step in because I was feeling uncomfortable,” Irizarry told the police officer who was writing down her declarations.
“In no time I saw him attacking you, he’s just a big mouth,” said the police officer, after he clarified that he had been called to the scene for a different incident.
As the complaint is being filed, Tim can be heard in the background mumbling to a female police officer and she demands him to stay quiet or she’s going to handcuff him.
According to the Forest Preserves Cook County, the investigation is still ongoing and “the officer involved has been assigned to desk duty pending the outcome.”
The Forest Preserves Cook County referred to Tim in a tweet as “the intoxicated individual involved in the incident” and said that he was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct.
The video elicited strong reactions, including one from Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who took to Twitter and deemed the incident as “an undignified event.” He called out the police officer because he “did not interfere.”
“I am appalled, shocked and disturbed by the officer’s behavior,” said Rosselló, who’s calling for the police officer’s expulsion. “He failed to deescalate the situation and therefore did not ensure a citizen’s safety,” Rosselló said.
Other public officials have reacted to the event, including Illinois Democratic congressman Luis Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent.
“There’s a culture of bigotry & hate that’s been condoned in US, which now feels unleashed to express itself in the most ugly & aggressive ways,” Gutiérrez tweeted. “In this case, a US citizen questions the citizenship of another US citizen and American law-enforcement just sits back and watches.”