A Texas police officer was caught on video apparently pepper-spraying a passing group of motorcyclists for no apparent reason. The officer has been placed on desk duty while the Fort Worth Police Department investigates the incident.
As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, the alleged pepper-spraying incident took place on Sunday. The police officer, identified as W. Figueroa, who has been with the Fort Worth police since 2009, had pulled over a red pickup truck and was in the process of writing various tickets — including having no driver’s license and two passengers standing in the bed of the truck — when a group of bikers drove by.
One of the motorcyclists, Jack Kinney, was filming his ride on his GoPro camera as he drove past the officer. In the video, which you can see below, the officer appears to grab a can of pepper spray, point it at the passing motorcyclists, and then appear to spray it into the group of bikers.
Kinney was not aware that anything was amiss until he and his friend, Chase Stone, reviewed their footage when they got home that night.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, film everything. You can delete it later if nothing is on your camera.”
Stone posted his friend’s video on his own Facebook page.
“Law enforcement is here to protect and serve, not intentionally try to harm others,” Stone wrote on his Facebook post in asking others to share the video. “***THIS WAS BEYOND DANGEROUS***.”
Stone, Kinney, and his biker friends are part of a group known as East Texas Heat. They say they were riding Sunday, along with about 200 other motorcyclists, in a “Welcome Back Weather” event, to commemorate the return of warm weather and motorcycle riding season.
Brittany Botella, who was driving the red pickup truck, tells NBC News that the pepper spray from the officer hit her and her passengers.
“I looked out my mirror and I seen [sic] all the Mace going towards all the bikes. And then it hit us. And then I started choking and that’s exactly what happened.”
One of her passengers, who has asthma, was taken to an area hospital for treatment.
Witnesses and law enforcement say that what the bikers were doing was hardly a simple bike ride. Fort Worth police reported receiving several 911 calls about bikers driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic, and driving slowly and blocking traffic lanes. Other callers reported that drivers on the road that day were impeding traffic in order to watch the bikers. One vehicle had allegedly turned sideways, blocking a lane of traffic. Another vehicle — the red pickup truck which the pepper-spraying officer had originally pulled over — had pulled stopped on the shoulder along a busy stretch of highway to film the bikers.
— Raw Story (@RawStory) March 15, 2016
Police spokesperson Tracey Knight, while refusing to comment directly on the pepper spraying allegations, said that the officer did everything by the book.
“[The officer] documented his actions as well as the actions before, during and after the traffic stop, as well as recording it on his body camera and the dash cam of his patrol car.”
However, Kinney believes that the Fort Worth Police Department is waging a “propaganda campaign” against the bikers in an attempt to justify the police officer’s actions.
“What’s in the video? The people at that time, they weren’t committing any crime. They were driving slower than the speed limit and they got pepper sprayed for it.”
Officer Figueroa has been removed from patrol duty and given a desk assignment while the department investigates the alleged pepper-spraying incident.
[Image via YouTube]