Police Respond to Attorney’s Legal Claims Which Center on Racial Profiling

Published : Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | 6:48 AM

In a media briefing on Monday, city officials showed police video of two incidents that may contradict separate claims filed against the City by motorists alleging they were subjected to racial profiling.

In the incidents, Kamau Barr and Hector Escobedo say they were pulled over due to their race. Barr is African American and Escobedo is Hispanic. They are both represented by Pasadena attorney John Burton.

Watch the videos:



But according to police and video shown on Monday, police could not see the race of Escobedo or Barr during the opening moments of each incident.

Officers began pursuing Barr while they were blocks behind him. The windows on Escobedo’s car were tinted.

“That’s crap,” Burton said Monday afternoon. “You can tell what race somebody is who’s driving a car. It’s not that difficult… I don’t buy that for a second, not for a second.”

Burton said Escobedo’s car had factory window tinting.

“Why is everyone detained by these people either Black or Hispanic?” Burton said.

Although the claim filed by Burton says Escobedo came to a complete stop at a stop sign shortly before police pulled him over across the street from his parent’s home on Montana Street, police dashcam footage shows Escobedo apparently slowing down without coming to a complete stop before he went through the stop sign.

After police pulled him over, he initially refused to lower his window and leave his vehicle when officers repeatedly asked him to comply with each instruction.

He eventually lowered his window. An officer reached inside and unlocked the door. The officer placed Escobedo in a wristlock and removed him from his SUV car before handcuffing him, positioning him to be seated on the curb, and running his driver’s license information.

Escobedo said he was not sure if the officers in the unmarked car were really police officers because they were driving an unmarked vehicle, although officers did turn on their police lights.

Officers and Escobedo were cordial by the time the incident ended.

One of the officers spoke to Escobedo’s parents during the traffic stop in Spanish and explained what was happening.

“[Escobedo] was targeted because of his ethnicity,” Burton said.

Burton had not seen the video before he filed the claim which was received by the city on Oct. 18. He said he requested copies of the footage, but was denied access due to “the ongoing investigation privilege.”

Burton saw the video for the first time on Monday.

“It’s exactly what we said in our claim and it’s outrageous conduct,” he said. “The fact that [Chief Perez] would put this out like it’s okay for his officers to act this way is showing that there’s a real problem in Pasadena that is pretty serious and goes right to the top. Because this is not okay.”

The second incident involved Pasadena resident Kamau Barr, who pulled over for speeding on May 31, on North Summit Avenue.

After police stopped him, they allegedly smelled alcohol according to Pasadena Police spokesman Lt. Bill Grisafe.

Grisafe said Barr’s blood alcohol level was later determined to be 0.08.

As an officer guided Barr out of his car, the two scuffled. Other officers joined and three forced Barr to the pavement.

“The real reason for the stop was racial profiling,” Burton said in the claim. “[Barr], a 47-year old military veteran employed as a warehouse manager was knocked violently to the asphalt and handcuffed in front of his wife and neighbors. He was arrested on a trumped up ‘cover’ charge ‘resisting arrest.’”
Barr was arrested and the DUI charges against him are pending.

At Monday’s media briefing, Pasadena Police Chief John Perez said the legal claims allege pretexting and racial profiling.

“Those are huge issues in our community,” he said.

He said that when the City receives the legal claims, media reports them.

“I think [the Police Dept. has] a commitment to provide as much as we can without violating the investigation or the police officer’s rights,” Perez said.

“If there was reason to initiate a personnel investigation into the actions of any of the officers involved, it would have been done,” Perez said. “In one incident, Pasadena Police Officers observed a stop sign violation and in another, they observed a speeding driver, and soon discovered that the driver was combative and intoxicated.”

Burton strongly disagrees.

He points to former New York City Mayor and current presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg’s recent remorseful apology for NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy, when police arbitrarily detained and questioned civilians on the street for weapons and other contraband. The policy led to disproportionately higher detentions of Latinos and Blacks.

What happened to Escobedo and Barr amounts to Pasadena’s own version of “stop and frisk,” Burton said.

“It’s disgusting,” he said.

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