“It was just a big ordeal that he wanted me out of the store, basically that’s what he wanted from the jump,” Townsend told WTAE. “He didn’t want to argue. He already had what he wanted to do in the first place so I was just sitting there taking the rap for the whole mess.”
The officer, identified as William Moore, was allegedly called to the restaurant after someone reported a person smoking marijuana outside. But instead of confirming who that person was or looking for him Moore targeted Townsend demanding he go outside.
The entire exchange was caught in the video posted to Twitter, including Moore demanding Townsend show identification without explaining why and Townsend calling the officer out for “racially profiling.”
“Do you have any ID on you?” Moore can be heard asking.
“No, I don’t have to give you my ID, sir,” Townsend replies.
Moore then requests a backup unit calling himself “the superior officer.” Townsend then gives in and hands over his driver’s license commenting that the incident is “racial profiling.”
Moore then mocks Townsend calling it racial profiling himself adding: “Oh yeah, ’cause I just don’t like Black people … Everybody knows me knows that I don’t care whether you’re white, brown or tan.”
This is when Townsend and others who watched the video suspect that Moore is under the influence. Townsend questions Moore asking “Are you drunk, sir?” While it is not confirmed if Moore was, the video does give the impression he might have been. Comments on the video call into question his “abuse of authority” and state of mind during the encounter.
A second video depicts Townsend with two other cops outside of the restaurant, with Moore continuing to question Townsend’s criminal history. “When I got outside, he sat me down and basically wanted to run a criminal background, wanted to see if I had warrants,” Townsend told WPXI-TV.
Following the incident the restaurant posted a statement on Facebook noting it had no issue with Townsend and was “deeply saddened” by the chain of events. “The situation was inexcusable and we completely condemn any type of demeaning behavior towards any individual who walks through our doors,” the Facebook post read.
“Our entire goal is for every person visiting our restaurant to be able to enjoy their entire experience and for us to serve our community,” they added. “I would like to tell every single one of our friends and customers to … always be kind and to always strive to morally be the best that you can be.”
According to a statement made to WTAE from Police Chief Joseph Caporali, Moore has been taken off the schedule pending an internal investigation.
“As a result of this encounter, allegations of possible misconduct of this officer are taken very seriously and the matter is under investigation,” Caporali said. “The officer is off schedule until the conclusion of this investigation at which time Vandergrift Borough Council will take appropriate action.”
But this isn’t the first time there have been complaints about Moore. According to TribLIVE, Moore was put on paid leave in 2017 after being charged with assault and harassment of a 14-year-old boy. He pleaded guilty to those charges, then was suspended the following year for unknown reasons. It seems like Moore doesn’t have the cleanest record himself and a background check should be run on him.
Racial profiling is far too common in the U.S. and must be taken seriously. Drunk or not Moore was clearly racially profiling Townsend and must be held accountable for his actions.