Lake Villa detective tells teen he was detained 'because you're white'
Lake Villa's police chief issued an apology Tuesday after a video went viral of one of the department's detectives screaming at a group of teens, telling one of them he had been detained because of his skin color.
When someone unseen in the video questions why he's being detained -- "Is it because I'm a teenager? Because I have baggy pants on?" he asks -- the detective spins around, points back at him and yells, "Because you're white."
Lake Villa Police Chief Craig Somerville said such behavior will not be tolerated.
"We are a professional department with high standards and we value our relationship with the public, particularly our youth," Somerville said in a statement. "Our relationships are built upon mutual understanding and trust and this type of behavior contradicts that."
Somerville said the detective, Esteban Gomez, was conducting a theft investigation Monday when he came in contact with the teens, one of whom was a suspect in that investigation. The incident resulted in one of the teens being charged with obstructing police for providing a false name, the chief said.
The chief's statement did not note what the detective said in the video, characterizing his response only as inappropriate and unprofessional.
"Det. Gomez admitted his words were poorly chosen and insensitive and he immediately regretted what he had said," Somerville said in his statement after noting that the detective immediately brought the incident to his attention upon returning to the station.
Somerville said the detective "has been disciplined for behavior unbecoming of an officer" and will help him speak to the parents of the teens involved in the incident. He did not elaborate on how he had been disciplined.
As of late Tuesday night, the cellphone video of the exchange posted to Facebook on Monday had amassed 47,000 views and been shared more than 500 times.
Desiree Baczek, 18, said she posted the video right after the incident happened Monday afternoon outside Todds Pawn Shop. She said the group went there so she could pawn something for money to buy her younger brother a book, "and then we were going to put some gas in the car."
Baczek said the detective demanded that she sit down, and she asked why; he responded that she either sit down or get arrested.
"I had to ask another officer … what was going on. He said my friend was in trouble from something that happened to his parents," she said.
Baczek said she and others tried to get her friend who exchanged expletives with the detective to be quiet, noting that he was out of line for doing so, but said "he just didn't understand what was going on, so he freaked out a little bit."
As the video begins recording, the detective can be seen standing, screaming down and occasionally pointing at someone sitting on the ground, at first yelling, "You want to be hard with me? Be hard with me!"
"What am I doing wrong?" a person being yelled at asks.
"Be hard with me! Go ahead!" the detective yells.
"What am I doing wrong?" the person asks again.
"You think you're a tough guy?" the detective asks.
"Are you going to hit me?" the person responds.
"No, I'm not going to hit you! Why would I hit you?" the detective yelled back.
"Because you're screaming at me. I've done nothing wrong," the person answered.
"Who's got the weed on 'em?" the detective asks as he walks away, turning back and pointing at the group. The seated people respond with profanity and laughter.
The video then shows the detective charging back at the group asking if they swore at him.
Soon, as the detective walks away, one asks, "Is it because I'm a teenager? Because I have baggy pants on?" and the detective turns and yells, "Because you're white."
Somerville, in his statement, apologized for what the video shows. "This occurred on my watch and I assume full responsibility," he said.
Baczek's mom, Missy Baczek, said her children and their friends have had ongoing issues with the detective and that she recently spoke with the state's attorney office and, just on Monday morning, the police chief about it.
"Now we're finally getting to speak out about what's happening, were concerned now it's going to cause bigger problems for us," she said.
Somerville declined to comment beyond the statement he released.