SAN ANTONIO - When a San Antonio police officer was recently terminated for repeatedly using a racial slur and other profanities during the arrest of a young black man, police Chief William McManus reached out to the local office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to explain what happened and the action he took.
The officer, Tim Garcia, was given an indefinite suspension in January for his handling of the arrest of 24-year-old Dewaxne Robinson in July.
Robinson had been asked by mall security guards to leave River Center Mall because he was allegedly "getting aggressive and confrontational with mall patrons as they were walking by." It was also alleged Robinson was "using vulgar language" and "threatening patrons as they passed."
Garcia and his partner confronted Robinson and eventually arrested him for criminal trespass.
After putting Robinson in handcuffs, Garcia continued to engage in a back-and-forth banter with Robinson that included vulgar language and Garcia repeatedly using a version of the N-word.
As Robinson complained about being arrested, Garcia was recorded saying, "You know what's bulls***? The way you were raised is bulls***."
Robinson also complained about his arm being twisted while the handcuffs were being put on and used a racial slur, referring to Garcia as "n***a" several times to which Garcia replied in a mocking tone, "N****? Do I look like your n****? Say it right. Put an 'r' at the end. If you're going to say it, don't call me n****. I ain't your n****."
The entire incident was recorded by Garcia's body-worn camera. The KSAT Defenders recently showed the video to Dr. Gregory Hudspeth, president of the San Antonio branch of the NAACP.
"The use of racial slurs will always be unacceptable. In this particular case, (Garcia) mocked the young man about how he was raised. I find his total behavior inexcusable," Hudspeth said. "You have this police officer not just making an arrest, but he was making an arrest of a young man that apparently he did not think very much of. He didn't think very much of the way he was raised, and more importantly here, he didn't think very much of the young man's race, his ethnicity."
While the officer's use of the racial slur was troubling, Hudspeth said, he was equally disturbed by the way he continued to escalate the situation.
"He escalated. Absolutely, he did," Hudspeth said. "As a matter of fact, if there is a manual on what police officers should and should not do, here's what one should not do. His picture could be there in that manual on how not to interact with a young man that you're arresting."
When questioned about the arrest by the San Antonio Police Department's Internal Affairs, Garcia stated he was just repeating the same language Robinson was using.
"I used similar language as a means of communicating my point. I repeated some of his language in order to speak a vernacular he would understand," Garcia said, according to official documents. "In retrospect, I was wrong and should have refrained from stooping to his level."
"I usually take offense to such language, and I don't stand for it. I did not use the word in a derogatory manner or use it in reference to anyone at the scene. Nobody has complained of the language, either."
Hudspeth said the encounter is another example of how far we still have to go when it comes to dealing with race and treating people fairly.
"The real problem we have today is that we find ourselves in an environment in which racism and racist acts have become acceptable. We thought that those days were behind us," Hudspeth said.
McManus said he was in a state of disbelief when he watched the video of the encounter.
"My reaction is the same as anyone else's. You're horrified when you watch that video and see what transpired," McManus said. "We will not tolerate any kind of racial or ethnic discrimination or defamation when it comes to those things. We're just not going to do it."
McManus said he reached out the NAACP leadership so they would learn about the incident from him personally. He has spent years creating a strong relationship with the African-American community in San Antonio and didn't want the actions of one officer to jeopardize that relationship.
"It causes a lot of damage to the image of the department," McManus said. "We've got 2,347 police officers in this department, and when one of them makes that kind of mistake, it reflects poorly on the department, the department's culture, and we simply can't have that."
Hudspeth said he and his fellow leaders appreciated the way McManus handled the situation.
"I don't think it damages the relationship at all. As a matter of fact, the police chief is doing precisely what I think we would ask him to do, and that is to be transparent. If there is an issue within his department to let us know, 'Here's the issue and here's how I'm addressing that issue,'" Hudspeth said.
He said "99.999 percent of the police officers are very good people, and we want all of the police officers to go home to their families at night. We appreciate the work that they are doing for our community. Are there outliers? Absolutely, there are outliers, and I think we've experienced one."
Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.