CHICAGO, IL — An officer for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County has been assigned to desk duty after a video showed him allowing a man to harass a woman for wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rican flag at a local preserve. Mia Irizarry posted the 36-minute video to her Facebook page on June 14. It quickly racked up more than 1.5 million views.
By Tuesday morning, the video had been taken down, but several shorter versions of it were still circulating on Twitter and Facebook.
The video shows the man — later identified by police as Timothy G. Trybus, 62 — trying to intimidate Irizarry, and demanding to know why she’s wearing a shirt that features the Puerto Rican flag.
“You should not be wearing that in the United States of America,” Trybus tells her, despite the fact that Puerto Rico is part of the United States — it’s been a territory of the U.S. since 1898 and a U.S. commonwealth since 1952. Puerto Rican citizens were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917.
The officer can be seen standing in the background of the video, several yards away from the confrontation.
“Officer, can you please…I’m renting this area and he’s harassing me about the shirt that I’m wearing,” the woman says.
The officer doesn’t appear to respond, and Trybus continues to come closer to the woman and harass her, demanding her citizenship status.
“You’re not going to change us, you know that?” Trybus tells Irizarry. “The world is not going to change the United States of America.”
“I’m not trying to change anyone, I’m just trying to come here for a birthday party,” Irizarry says in the video.
In a police report obtained from the Forest Preserve District Police Department, the officer didn’t include any mention of the woman asking him for help.
In the longer version of the video, the officer told the woman that Trybus didn’t pose any threat, and is “just a big mouth.”
The Cook County Forest Preserves said that the officer who stood in the background of the video has been assigned to desk duty while a probe is underway.
The agency said Trybus was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct. Forest Preserves said he was intoxicated.
“All people are welcome in the Forest Preserves of Cook County and no one should feel unsafe while visiting our preserves,” the agency tweeted.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Forest Preserves Chief of Police Kelvin Pope identified the officer as Patrick Connor. Pope said Connor “should have stepped in, and he should’ve done something.”
At the press conference, Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. said he he has “full faith” that the investigation will be thorough.
“…me, personally, I believe this officer did not do his duty and I will not accept anything else but this officer’s termination,” Arroyo said.
State Sen. Iris Martinez has also called for Connor to be fired.
Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, tweeted that he was “appalled, shocked & disturbed” by the incident.
“The United States of America is a nation that was built and thrives on diversity. We cannot allow those who do not understand America’s greatness to terrorize people because of their background,” Rossello said in a tweet. “This is not the America we all believe in.”
In another tweet, he noted that diversity has been central to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s career, and said that he was sure she would “take matter(s) into her hands.” Preckwinkle has since issued an apology to the victim for the incident, and called it “completely unacceptable.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez has also condemned the video, and has called for a federal investigation into the incident.
The video was taken in Caldwell Woods on Chicago’s Far Northwest Side, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Cook County Forest Preserves said it’s launched an investigation into the officer’s response.
Top image via Shutterstock