Lake Villa, IL – A Lake Villa police detective has been disciplined by the department after making a snarky comment to a mouthy teen, telling him he was detained for being “white”‘ (video below.) The teen was not actually detained for being white.
A video of the incident was captured by Dezi Baczek, 18, who was also being detained when the detective made the remark, WMAQ reported.
Detective Esteban Gomez was investigating a theft on Monday when he encountered the group of five teens, Lake Villa Police Chief Craig Somerville told the Daily Herald.
One of the individuals in the group was a suspect in the theft investigation.
After Det. Gomez directed all of the teens to sit on a curb outside the business. They refused to comply until the detective threatened to arrest them.
One of the friends started yelling expletives at the Detective.
“He just didn’t understand what was going on, so he freaked out a little bit,” Baczek said of her friend, according to Daily Herald.
Baczek then pulled out her phone and started recording the exchange.
The recorded the teens mouthing-off, but it’s how the detective responded that got him in trouble.
“Is it because I’m a teenager? Because I have baggy pants on?” the person asked.
Det. Gomez, who was walking away from the group when the questions were asked, quickly pivoted, pointed in the direction of the teens, and yelled, “Because you’re white!”
“I was speechless,” Baczek told WMAQ. “Like I wasn’t comprehending what he actually said for a minute.”
Chief Somerville said the department doesn’t condone this type of behavior, the Daily Herald reported.
“We are a professional department with high standards and we value our relationship with the public, particularly our youth,” Chief Somerville said. “Our relationships are built upon mutual understanding and trust and this type of behavior contradicts that.”
Chief Somerville said Det. Gomez brought the incident to his attention immediately after it occurred.
“Det. Gomez admitted his words were poorly chosen and insensitive and he immediately regretted what he had said,” Chief Somerville noted.
Det. Gomez “has been disciplined for behavior unbecoming of an officer,” he said, but did not elaborate on what disciplinary measures were taken, the Daily Herald reported.
According to the Lake County News-Sun, Baczek said she was called down to the police station on Tuesday, and that Chief Somerville apologized to her.
“I honestly believe the chief means it,” she said.
“I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by what is depicted on this video,” Chief Somerville told WMAQ. “This occurred on my watch and I assume full responsibility.”
Chief Somerville also expressed support for the detective.
“I know his family; I’ve witnessed his volunteer work with the youth of this community. He is a hard-working and dedicated officer who cares about people,” he said.
Baczek’s mother complained that the police are always harassing her daughter and friends, according to WGN.
One individual who was in the group of teens that Det. Gomez detained was ultimately charged with obstructing justice because he provided a fake name to the detective.
You can watch the video of Det. Gomez’s exchange with the teenagers below: