An unlicensed street vendor in Berkeley who had his money seized by a University of California police officer received a check for more than $87,000 on Saturday after a viral GoFundMe campaign was launched in his favor.
The vendor, who asked to be identified only as "Beto," was captured on video earlier this month being ticketed for selling hot dogs on the UC Berkeley campus while fans poured out of Memorial Stadium following a football game. The video, which shows the officer confiscate earnings from the vendor's wallet, was posted online and quickly shared across social media with critics jumping in to denounce the officer for going too far.
UC Berkeley alumnus Martin Flores captured the video and kicked off the GoFundMe campaign in the vendor's name.
"Hardworkers should not be violated," Flores said Saturday. "Their money should not be taken from their wallets, watching it be snatched from their hands. They should be treated with dignity."
Nearly 5,600 people have since raised $87,948 for the vendor over the past two weeks. The vendor's check included a grand total of $87,921 when it was presented Saturday morning.
In an interview with NBC Bay Area’s sister station Telemundo, the vendor said he holds down a regular job in construction. He was selling hot dogs to earn a little extra money, he said.
"People saw I wasn’t doing anything wrong," the vendor said. "I wasn’t stealing or drinking. I was just working to sustain my family."
UCPD opened a complaint investigation into the incident, according to UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy. The officer involved was allowed to continue to work during the investigation.
While the officer remained on the job, a petition was created to remove him from the department. That petition has gained 57,067 supporters as of Saturday night.
The backlash from the video has reinvigorated existing debates about civil forfeiture, a controversial practice in which officers are allowed to seize assets, including cash, that they allege are involved in a crime. The money or sales from seized assets often funnels back into police departments, where it is used as a routine source of funding.
The tactic was originally meant to disrupt "large-scale criminal enterprises," but it has since been abused by small and large law enforcement agencies, according to the ACLU. Several reform efforts directed at changing civil forfeiture laws are already underway.
NBC Bay Area's Gillian Edevane contributed to this report.