Buena Park, CA – The Buena Park Police Department opened an internal investigation on an officer after an off-duty incident where he drew his weapon to thwart what he mistakenly believed was a shoplifting in progress.
The incident occurred at approximately 10 p.m. on March 16, when 49-year-old Jose Arreola and his wife, Jacqueline, stopped at a Chevron store while on their way to a club, The Orange County Register reported.
Arreola withdrew $60 from an ATM inside the store, then went up to the counter to purchase a package of Mentos that his wife had requested.
“How much are these?” he asked the cashier.
The man behind the counter told Arreola that the mints cost $1.19, so he began rummaging in his pocket for some cash, store surveillance video showed.
The off-duty Buena Park police officer then entered the store, and stood in line behind Arreola.
As the cashier worked on the transaction, Arreola reached across the counter, and placed the Mentos in his pocket.
“Hey, give that back,” the officer told him, as Arreola turned to face him.
“Police officer,” he said, pulling a weapon from his pocket and then pulling it out of a holster. “Put that back.”
“Whoa!” Arreola said. “I paid for it! I just paid for this!”
Arreola turned towards the cashier, with the Mentos in his hand.
“Put it back,” the officer instructed, as Arreola quickly dropped the mints on the counter.
“He tried stealing that from you,” the officer told the cashier.
“No – I just paid for it,” Arreola said.
“Get your cash and leave,” the officer replied.
Arreola complied, and began backing away from the counter.
“Did he pay for this?” the officer asked the cashier.
“Yes,” the man behind the counter replied.
“He paid for it? Are you sure?” the officer asked again.
The cashier confirmed that Arreola had purchased the mints.
“My apologies,” the officer told Arreola, who then stepped back towards the counter to pick up the Mentos.
“Thank you,” Arreola said, as he rushed out of the store.
Following the incident, Arreola filed a complaint with the Buena Park Police Department against the officer, The New York Times reported.
He said that the department subsequently offered him a settlement, but that he refused when he discovered it would only have covered his legal fees.
Buena Park Police Chief Corey Sianez addressed the incident in a Facebook post on Friday in an “effort to be transparent.”
“The video of the incident clearly shows our officer drawing his gun, but not pointing it, at a subject he allegedly believed was committing a theft,” Chief Sianez said in the statement. “We were aware of this incident after it occurred and we immediately began conducting an administrative investigation into the conduct of the officer involved.”
“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,” he continued. “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.”
The chief asked for the community’s patience during the investigation.
“I can definitely assure you that our investigation will be thorough and if the officer is found to be in violation of any policies and procedures, he will be held accountable,” he said.
According to The New York Times, Chief Sianez did not respond when asked whether or not the officer had been placed on leave.
You can watch surveillance footage of the incident below: