McKINNEY, Texas — A police officer in the Dallas suburb of McKinney is on administrative leave after a YouTube video showed a chaotic confrontation Friday between teenagers and law enforcement at a community pool in an upper-middle-class neighborhood.
The approximately seven-minute video opens as officers try to gain control of a group of teenagers at the pool. Several minutes into the video, an officer throws a teenage girl wearing a bikini to the ground and shoves her head down. Two teenage boys approach and the officer takes out his firearm and chases them away, then turns his attention to the girl again. He grabs her arm and simultaneously re-holsters his gun.
“Call my mama, oh God!” she shouts.
He forcefully swings her by her arm to the ground.
“On your face!” he orders and presses his open hand to the back of her head and slams her face-first into the grass.
While other teens watch, the officer places both of his knees on her back.
Her crying is audible.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the McKinney Police Department said that the video “raised concerns” and it is investigating the incident. Some on social media, including comments on the YouTube post, are reacting to the video by saying that race was a factor.
The officers appear to be white and many, though not all, of the teenagers are black.
The department has not released the name of the officer placed on leave but Chief Greg Conley told reporters Sunday that the girl, who is 14, was detained and released to her parents. An adult male was arrested, Conley said, and charged with evading arrest and interference with the duties of a peace officer.
Conley said that two officers with the McKinney Police Department are conducting an investigation.
CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes watched the YouTube video and harshly criticized the officer who wrestled the girl.
The officer appeared to be “running around escalating” a situation that should have quickly calmed, he said.
Fuentes said there appeared to be “no justification” for the way the juveniles, particularly the girl, were treated.
The fact that she was wearing a bikini indicated that she was “clearly not armed,” he said.
The officer appeared to be “running around almost like a one-man band,” he said, and other officers appeared to distance themselves from him. “The other officers that are there don’t really come right to him to give him a hand. I’m wondering what’s going through their minds, ‘Get me away from this guy. He’s out of control.’
“He’s out of control. He clearly has no self-discipline. He lost control of his temper. Nothing good can happen at that point. Thankfully he didn’t shoot somebody.”
There were 12 officers who responded but he didn’t know how many were on scene at the time the video was shot, Conley said Sunday. The chief could also not answer how long the officer had been employed by the department.
A reporter asked if the officer has any prior complaints against him, the chief answered that he did not “have any data” on the officer.
Another reporter asked whether the actions of the officer on leave were consistent with training on how to disperse a crowd.
“It’s something we’re going to have to look into,” he answered.
The video and questions it raises
WARNING: Unedited video contains swear words
From start to finish, this is what is seen on the YouTube video:
The video opens in the middle of crowd of young people in swim clothes on a residential street. One can hear a man, presumably an officer yelling, “Move, move!” as teenagers walk in different directions.
An officer runs into the frame, falls, rolls and pops back up and continues running. Another officer comes into the frame, running. They appear to be pursuing someone or some people in the distance.
Teenagers are heard screaming.
The videographer focuses the camera on a small group of teens and an officer — not the one who unholstered his gun or held down the girl. There is an apparently polite moment in which the teenagers give the officer his flashlight that he’d dropped and he thanks them, telling them that when police tell you not to move, you shouldn’t move.
To the right of that officer, a second officer comes into the frame. A teenager is holding that officer’s flashlight and the officer is pulling the teenage boy toward him. The second officer shouts to the boy, “Get on the ground!” then shoves the boy’s head down and says, “I told you to stay!”
The second officer yells to other teens, “Get your asses down on the ground!”
The teens comply and sit in the grass while the officer then runs toward to other teenage boys, shouting and swearing at them. He yells, “On the ground!”
Those teenagers comply, too.
The second officer then shouts to a crowd of teenagers, “Get your ass out of here!”
The girl who would be wrestled to the ground walks around while one teenage boy says, “Sir, we just came for a birthday party, please.”
The second officer curses at the boys and then tells a group of girls nearby to leave.
There’s some kind of conversation between the second officer and the girls, the details of which are inaudible. But that officer can be heard saying loudly, “You are leaving now! You are leaving now!”
The officer walks to the girl in the bikini and drags her back. The crowd shouts and the officer drags the girl to the ground. And the scene described above plays out.
The last two minutes of the video shows the officer taking his knees off the girl and placing her hands behind her back. She continues to cry. Not far away two officers are on both sides of a handcuffed young man whose mouth is bleeding. They sit him on the ground.
The McKinney Police Department’s statement on Facebook said that officers went to the Craig Ranch North Community Pool because they got calls about teenagers who “do not live in the area or have permission” to be there and were “refusing to leave.”
Some callers said that the teenagers were fighting. When police arrived, the teenagers refused to comply with police, McKinney authorities said.
‘We are the professionals’
CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander, the public safety director of DeKalb County, Georgia, watched the video Sunday.
Cautioning that one video doesn’t tell an entire story, he said officers were likely dealing with a very hard scene: a lot of teenagers running around and not obeying basic orders to disperse.
“I thought the kids were not compliant whatsoever,” he said. “That in itself is a problem. Those kids attempted to over-talk the police.”
Alexander said he would not “demonize” or second-guess the McKinney officers based on the video, but he thought that the officer who wrestled the girl to the ground could have better controlled his temper and refrained from swearing.
“They are teenagers and we are the professionals,” he said. “You can’t allow emotions to get in the way.”
But it also appeared that the girl was “putting up resistance,” Alexander said. “Had she just complied, it wouldn’t have got to that point.”
CNN legal analyst and trial attorney Paul Callan said more must be learned about exactly what police were told in calls.
“The nature of the police response should be proportionate and appropriate to the perceived threat,” he said. Assuming that they were responding to a generalized complaint of juveniles fighting and possibly trespassing at Craig Ranch North, a private residential community, the cops had the right to respond and investigate.”
But when the teenagers scattered and ran, the police went to an “inappropriate Texas roundup of all fleeing juveniles,” Callan chided.
There are many questions that authorities must answer such as who exactly was behind any alleged criminal activity that warranted arrests?
“Since there was no specific description of the individuals who may have engaged in criminal conduct, this generalized detention of everyone who chose to run was excessive and probably an unconstitutional exercise of police force without reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” Callan said.
Detaining, forcing to the ground and handcuffing any young person on the scene “appears to be improper and illegal,” he said. “Much of the panic and running by the juveniles seems to have been caused by the overreaction and overly aggressive use of force by the officer” who showed his gun and wrestled the girl.
The officer’s treatment of the girl “appears to be punishment for her attitude rather than for the commission of any crime and does not appear to be supported by probable cause or even reasonable suspicion,” he added. “It appears to be an illegal and unconstitutional arrest and detention.”
But the officer taking out his gun?
That might be justified, Callan said, because the officer could have reasonably assumed the young men who approached him to be a real threat.