Caught on video last month, an Illinois police officer appears to ignore a woman’s pleas for help as a man harasses her over a Puerto Rican flag shirt. The governor of Puerto Rico himself stepped in Monday, demanding that the officer — currently under investigation — be fired.
“I am appalled, shocked and disturbed by the officer’s behavior,” Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said on Twitter on Monday. “He failed to de-escalate the situation and therefore did not ensure a citizen’s safety.”
A police spokeswoman identified the officer Tuesday as Patrick Connor, who has been with Forest Preserve District of Cook County Police Department since 2006. The district said on Twitter on Monday that there was an internal investigation into Connor’s conduct and that he had been placed on desk duty in the mean time.
A widely shared video of the confrontation, which took place in Caldwell Woods, a park in northern Chicago, was recorded by the woman last month. It shows a man, identified in a police report as Timothy Trybus, demanding to know why she has on the shirt and if the woman, Mia Irizarry, is a U.S. citizen. While Trybus shouts at her, points at her face and follows her around part of the park, Connor can be seen standing about 20 feet away with his hands against his chest.
“You are not going to change us, you know that, right?” Trybus, 62, says to Irizarry, 24, as he walks up to her. “Are you a United States citizen? Then you should not be wearing that.”
Irizarry, who was at the park with friends for a birthday party, can be heard on the video telling Trybus that she is indeed an American citizen. Her friends can be heard telling him that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. At one point in the video, Irizarry tries to move away from Trybus and walks out from under a pavilion, but he follows her as Connor appears not to approach them.
“Officer, officer, I feel highly uncomfortable,” Irizarry tells Connor, who does not appear to respond to her as he is addressed, and can be seen turning his back and walking toward his police car.
The video shows Trybus continuing to confront Irizarry and her friends for about 10 minutes before additional police officers arrive and eventually arrest him. Trybus was charged with disorderly conduct and assault, the Forest Preserve District said in a tweet. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
“That officer did absolutely nothing — he did absolutely zero,” Irizarry said in the video. “I told him I was uncomfortable multiple times. He did not do anything.”
She did not respond to multiple requests for an interview Tuesday.
The nearly 30-minute video, capturing an incident similar to recent episodes of white people confronting black people (and other minorities) engaged in everyday activities and calling the authorities, was streamed from Irizarry’s Facebook profile on June 14, but it gained a wider audience this week.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill., who represents part of Cook County, said Tuesday that he had asked the civil rights division of the Justice Department to open an investigation. He said that the video of the encounter reminded him of when a police officer 25 years ago denied him entry into the U.S. Capitol with his daughter, who was holding a Puerto Rican flag.
“I understand this incident on a gut level because almost exactly the same thing happened to me when I was a freshman in Congress,” Gutiérrez said in a statement. “This kind of incident is unfortunately not unusual.”
In the Facebook video, Trybus, who was riding bikes with another man at the park, said he lived not far away. A police report identified the second man as Thomas Craft and stated that he was arrested on an unrelated charge.
Toward the end of the video, an officer with a badge that says “P. Connor,” who can be seen taking statements from Irizarry and her friends, tells the group that the men had a history of causing problems at the park.