Officer resigns after video shows he watched as woman was harassed for wearing Puerto Rico shirt
An officer who was captured on video failing to intervene as a man harassed a woman for wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt resigned on Wednesday, the Cook County Forest Preserve District Police Department said.
The harassed woman, Mia Irizarry, planned to spend her birthday last month celebrating with friends at Caldwell Woods, a sprawling forested area on Chicago’s Far Northwest Side. She purchased a permit to rent a picnic area in the park and arrived wearing a shirt that displayed the Puerto Rican flag.
It was this Puerto Rican flag shirt, she later told police, that triggered a man to repeatedly beleaguer her, getting up close and snarling, ‘‘You should not be wearing that in the United States of America.’’ (Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and its residents are US citizens.)
All the while, a police officer stood watching, ignoring Irizarry as she pleaded with him to intervene. Irizarry recorded the exchange in a Facebook Live video that has since been viewed more than 1.4 million times and drawn outcry from local leaders, members of Congress and the Puerto Rican governor himself.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, posted a string of tweets Monday night calling the video ‘‘an undignified event in which a Puerto Rican woman was brutally harassed by a bigot while an officer did not interfere. I am appalled, shocked & disturbed by the officer’s behavior.’’
The governor demanded the officer be expelled from the police force. ‘‘He failed to deescalate the situation and therefore did not ensure a citizen’s safety,’’ Rosselló tweeted.
On Tuesday, the Forest Preserve District Police Department announced it had placed the police officer on desk duty last month pending an internal investigation into his conduct. The officer was identified as Patrick Connor, a 10-year member of the force who had previously been disciplined for working a part-time job and not carrying proper credentials, Forest Preserve District Police Chief Kelvin Pope said in a Tuesday news conference.
On Wednesday, the agency announced that Connor resigned late that same day. ‘‘But that isn’t where our work ends,’’ the police department wrote in a Facebook post. ‘‘We are further addressing aspects of this incident and more information will be shared here and with the media tomorrow. No further information is available this evening
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin told the Chicago Sun-Times that Connor had been scheduled to attend an internal affairs disciplinary hearing on Thursday.
‘‘The officer should have stepped in and he should have done something,’’ Pope said in Tuesday’s news conference. Eileen Figel, the agency’s deputy general superintendent, described the video as ‘‘disturbing’’ and said the agency had apologized to Irizarry and refunded the money she spent renting the picnic area.
‘‘No one should feel unsafe while visiting our preserves,’’ Figel said. ‘‘The aggressive behavior and racially charged and ignorant comments of the individual are appalling to all of us.’’
In the video captured by Irizarry, she is heard explaining to the inebriated man that Puerto Rico is ‘‘part of the United States.’’ The man, later identified by police as Timothy G. Trybus, 62, continued hurling insults at her, asking if she was ‘‘uneducated.’’
‘‘You’re not going to change us, you know that,’’ Trybus is heard saying to her, adding that ‘‘the world is not going to change the United States of America, period.’’
‘‘I’m not trying to change anyone. I’m just trying to come here for a birthday,’’ Irizarry responds. He asks her if she is an American citizen, to which she responds that she is. ‘‘If you’re an American citizen you should not be wearing that shirt in America,’’ Trybus says.
Irizarry is heard asking the man to please get away from her, and begging the nearby officer, Connor, for help. ‘‘Officer, I feel highly uncomfortable. Can you please grab him?’’
‘‘Officer, I paid for a permit for this area,’’ she also says. ‘‘I do not feel comfortable with him here. Is there anything you can do?’’
Another man, whom Irizarry later identified as her brother, is heard defending her, getting up close to Trybus and telling him, ‘‘Back up. Don’t follow her.’’
Several minutes later, other police officers arrived to arrest Trybus. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County Police charged Trybus with assault and disorderly conduct, police officials said in a news conference Tuesday.
Irizarry is heard in the video telling a female police officer her account of what happened, and how Connor ‘‘literally was just standing there watching the whole thing happen like nothing.’’