A white Indiana deputy constable whom local authorities aren’t identifying was fired after video showed him accusing Black Nordstrom Rack shoppers of “being suspicious.”
Aaron Blackwell and Durell Cunningham told RTV6 they felt they were being racially profiled Tuesday at the retailer in the Indianapolis suburb of Castleton.
“I just feel violated from my rights and how he went about the situation. It wasn’t professional,” Cunningham told the news station.
Although Lawrence Township Constable Terry Burns identified the man depicted in the video footage as a deputy constable, Burns refused to release his name to RTV6.
Cunningham told the news station he and Blackwell were shopping at the store when they first noticed a security guard later identified as the constable watching them.
When they finished checking out, he followed them outside the store and watched them get into their car, Cunningham said.
Blackwell started recording just before the constable got into his vehicle reportedly to follow the men.
The footage showed him hopping out.
“Take your driver’s license out,” the constable said.
“For what,” the driver asked.
“Because I told you to,” the constable responded.
The driver had started to tell the constable he had to have a reason to pull them over, when the man interrupted.
“You either get your license out or I’ll hit for backup — ” he said.
“Call your supervisor,” Cunningham and Blackwell said simultaneously.
The constable refused and instead met the driver’s questions with an explanation that he was asking for ID “because you want to run your mouth to me.”
When the men started to explain the constable didn’t have the right to run their plates without cause, he interrupted them shouting.
“I’ve got my rights to do anything I want to do. I’m a police officer,” yelled through the car’s window. “Get your driver’s license out or I’ll pull you over and I’ll tow your car.”
The security guard went back and forth with the men in a 17-minute-16-second video, that showed them asking for the constable’s badge number and name, which he refused to give.
“First of all, you have to suspect him of a crime to ask for his identity. You didn’t do that,” Blackwell said.
“You don’t know the law!” the constable shouted.
“Yeah, I do know the law,” Blackwell said.
He told the constable he was calling 911, and the man continued pressing the driver for his license and refusing to give his name.
In the process, he revealed to them that he was off duty.
“If you’re off duty than why are you stopping people.
“I’m stopping you because you’re suspicious,” the constable said.
When Blackwell asked the constable for proof that he was even a law enforcement officer, the noticeably irritated man responded:
“Shut up. Why don’t you shut up? I’m not talking to you.”
A few moments later, the constable could be heard telling an Indianapolis police officer who responded to the scene what happened.
“What infraction did he commit,” the officer could be heard asking.
The constable responded, “suspicious behavior.”
“I was wanting his ID,” the constable said.
“OK, what was suspicious about it,” the officer could be heard asking.
“Because he was calling me out in my car,” the constable said.
After stepping away to chat privately with the constable, the officer returned without the man to get their side of what happened.
When he did, the cop explained that police can run license plates for any reason but the constable does have to have “reasonable suspicion” in order to make a stop.
“As far as I know, based upon what happened I don’t think either of us has any reasonable suspicion to believe that there’s a crime taking place,” the officer said.