A police officer from Texas was caught allegedly spraying a pepper discharge at a group of bikers who were riding by the officer, who at the time was engaging in a traffic stop. The officer has been pulled from patrol and placed on desk duty while internal affairs investigates the bizarre act caught on video.
Writes the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on March 14, via MSN News: “W. Figueroa, an officer with Fort Worth since 2009, was placed on administrative duties Monday afternoon. Figueroa had pulled over a red pickup truck Sunday afternoon after it was allegedly blocking traffic and recording ‘motorcycles driving recklessly.’”
Video shows Figueroa exiting his patrol vehicle, pepper spray in hand. It’s unclear in the video if there is any evidence of the so-called “reckless” driving of the motorcyclists, but we see Figueroa’s arm outstretched into the right lane of the highway, blasting a stream of pepper spray as the caravan of bikers drive by.
The video was taken by a biker named Jack Kinney, 32, using his helmet-mounted GoPro camera, and was uploaded to Facebook by Chase Stone, president of a Texas motorcycle group known as the East Texas Heat. Stone said approximately 200 bikers were participating in a “Welcome Back Weather” ride to open the 2016 biking season.
“Law enforcement is here to protect and serve, not intentionally try to harm others,” Stone wrote on Facebook. “This was way beyond dangerous.”
Added Kinney: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, film everything. You can delete it later if nothing is on your camera.”
The incident occurred Sunday on Highway 287, also known as the Martin Luther King Freeway. According to the Star-Telegram, there were reports called in to police that the bikers were driving recklessly. The site reported:
One of the callers stated that multiple motorcycles were racing, stopping and weaving through cars on U.S. 287. Another caller told dispatchers that the cyclists were riding slowly and blocking traffic lanes while several people in the bed of a pickup were standing up, taking photos of the group. One vehicle, that caller added, had even turned sideways, blocking a traffic lane, to allow the cyclists to pass.
Kinney called those reports a “propaganda campaign” meant to justify the officer’s actions. “What’s in the video?” Kinney asked. “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.”
Texas law calls for motorists to either vacate the lane nearest a traffic stop, or else slow down to at least 20 miles under the speed limit – which on U.S. 287 is 65 mph.
Stone and his group said the officer should face criminal charges. “I wouldn’t want anyone to lose their job. I know people have families to feed. You have to have money, you have to a have career,” Stone said. “But you’re here to protect and serve… not to harm. His intention was to harm one person, if not more, with that spray. It was very dangerous.”
According to the NY Times, police spokeswoman Cpl. Tracey M. Knight said the department “takes any complaint of officer misconduct very seriously and this incident will be investigated thoroughly.”
Paramedics responded to the scene to treat those who were pepper sprayed. One biker agreed to go to the hospital to be checked out. The pepper spraying officer remains under investigation for his actions.