A Cook County Forest Preserve police officer is under investigation after video appeared to show him ignoring a woman’s pleas for help as a man berated her for wearing a Puerto Rico shirt last month during a birthday party at an area park, according to the Forest Preserves. The man seen in viral video of the encounter has been charged with assault, authorities said.
Mia Irizarry filmed the scene at the Caldwell Woods forest preserve on Facebook Live as the man, identified by police as Timothy Trybus, began telling her her shirt with the Puerto Rican flag on it should not be worn “in the United States of America.”
The video shows the woman asking a nearby Forest Preserves officer for help, but the officer does not appear to stop the man, who continues his rant and gets increasingly closer to Irizarry in the space she said she had rented that afternoon.
“Officer, I feel highly uncomfortable; can you please grab him?” she is heard saying on the footage.
The officer then turns around and walks back toward his car.
“Why is she wearing that sh--?” the man shouts.
Trybus questions if Irizarry is a citizen of the U.S. and continues to shout at her as she pleads with the officer to remove the man from the space, footage shows.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and residents on the island are American citizens.
Eventually, other park guests arrive at the scene and get involved. The officer then says something to Trybus, who continues to argue with those at the park as the officer stands by him. Other officers arrive several minutes later and one eventually takes down Irizarry’s information and her account of what happened.
Trybus, who authorities said was intoxicated, was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct, the forest preserve said.
Though the footage had already been seen over a million times after it was first posted in early June, new postings of the video have prompted responses from the forest preserve and even the governor of Puerto Rico.
“We are aware of the the [sic] June 14 incident and video,” the Forest Preserves tweeted Monday. “After the incident, we immediately launched an investigation pursuant to our personnel policies into the response of our officer.”
Forest Preserves officials said the officer involved in the incident has been with the department for 10 years, and did call for assistance on his radio. Still, they stated the officer's actions were not part of procedure.
"The officer should have stepped in and he should have done something," Forest Preserves Chief of Police Kelvin Pope said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "And that's the reason we’re here today, because he did not."
Officials said an investigation remained ongoing as of Tuesday and the officer involved was assigned to desk duty pending the outcome. They noted that they apologized to Irizarry and refunded her money.
“All people are welcome in the Forest Preserves of Cook County and no one should feel unsafe while visiting our preserves,” their tweet read.
Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, also began tweeting about the “undignified event.”
“I am appalled, shocked & disturbed by the officer’s behavior,” he wrote. “We will be looking into this incident as our offices in DC are in contact with local and state authorities, demanding that this officer be expelled from the police force. He failed to deescalate the situation and therefore did not ensure a citizen’s safety.”
He also called on Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to “take matter [sic] into her hands.”
“The United States of America is a nation that was built and thrives on diversity,” he wrote. “We cannot allow those who do not understand America’s greatness to terrorize people because of their background. This is not the America we all believe in.”
Preckwinkle said she apologizes to the woman, calling the man in the footage "abusive and offensive."
She said in a statement she spoke with Rosselló, expressing regret over the incident and assuring him it "does not represent our values in Cook County."
"I assured him that disciplinary action regarding the Forest Preserves police officer will be taken upon conclusion of our investigation," she said in a statement.
The video prompted responses from numerous area officials.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez took to Twitter after the footage made headlines, calling for a need to "stand up to bigotry & bullies."
"There's a culture of bigotry & hate that's been condoned in US, which now feels unleashed to express itself in the most ugly & aggressive ways," he wrote. "In this case, a US citizen questions the citizenship of another US citizen and American law-enforcement just sits back and watches. I don’t care that she is Puerto Rican or wearing a Puerto Rican flag t-shirt just because I'm Puerto Rican. We all should care because we are decent human beings & need to stand up to bigotry & bullies..."
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo called for the officer to be fired.
"I have full faith in our system, in the process and the investigation that is underway. But me, personally, I believe that this officer did not do his duty and I will not accept anything else but this officer’s termination," he said.