Imagine you’re just out for gas and candy and someone pulls a gun on you.
It was a hellish way to end the night for Jose Arreola, a Latino man recently accosted by an off-duty police officer who drew his gun at a gas station and accused Arreola of stealing.
At the end of a night out with his wife on March 16, Arreola stopped at gas station in Buena Park, California to use the ATM and buy a $1.19 pack of mints, ABC 7 reports. After he had already paid for his mints and was waiting to receive his change, an off-duty police officer walked in, just in time to see Arreola place the mints that he’d paid for in his pocket. Surveillance footage shows the officer telling Arreola, “Hey, put that back. I’m a police officer.” The officer then pulls out his gun and repeats himself.
Arreola, visibly stunned, tries to tell the officer that he’d already paid for them, but the officer says, “Get your cash and leave.” At one point he uses his gun to gesture, as shown in the screenshot above. Arreola backs away from the register with his hands slightly raised, and the officer questions the cashier directly, asking if Arreola actually had already paid for the mints. He has the cashier confirm it twice and asks if he’s sure before he apologizes to Arreola.
The experience left Arreola shaken, enough so that he and his wife filed a complaint against the City of Buena Park the following day, CBS reports. This eventually lead to the discovery and release of the surveillance footage.
“I just think that he could shoot me right now,” he said, according to WTKR. “He could shoot me and I could lose my life, and my wife’s in the car. It was just a very emotional moment.”
Said Arreola’s wife, Jacquie Arreola, “If you pull a gun, you're pulling it because you’re preparing yourself to use it. So he could have killed my husband that night. It’s like, you pulled a gun over a stupid item and anything could have went wrong, and that’s the part that I can’t shake.”
The officer has yet to be identified. Buena Park Police Department Chief Corey S. Sianez addressed the situation in a Facebook statement on Friday.
“I want you to know that after I watched the video I found it to be disturbing, as I’m sure it was to you,” his statement read, in part. “However, because there is an ongoing personnel investigation and potential litigation pending against the city, I am unable to discuss the details of our investigation.”
What was most disturbing for Jose was the officer’s demeanor, he explained to CBS.
“The hardest thing for me was, believe it or not, it wasn’t really the gun,” he said. “It was his arrogance, his way of talking to me. […] He treated me like a piece of trash.”
The Arreolas said that they don’t want the officer fired, but they do want him to receive better training, CBS reports. They also hope to settle out of court.
“There’s a lot of good people, officers, but when one or two do bad things, it just reflects on the whole department,” Jose said.
Jose’s experience is one of many in a long line of suspected racial profiling incidents that have made headline news in recent months. Two Native American teens had their college tour interrupted earlier this month after the mother of another prospective student called campus police to report that the two boys made her “nervous.”
(Photo: Screenshot via YouTube)