MORROW, Ga. — A local police department is responding after a video involving its police chief and some of his officers has gone viral. The man in the video says Morrow police violated his rights and mistreated him during a traffic stop.
Jesse Cortez thinks his race played a role, but police say Cortez was trespassing and refused to follow the law.
In the video, posted on social media by Cortez, Morrow Police Chief Michael Crumpler can be seen approaching him while Cortez was in his car at The District last year.
The District, which was formerly known as Olde Town Morrow, was intended to be a commercial village, but it never got off the ground. The city now plans to use the site for private events.
[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]
Cortez says he saw a lease sign outside of the property and wanted to see it to possibly use as a location for seminars on dog training. He says while he was on the property someone with blue lights stopped him. He says a man got out and approached his car, so he began recording.
“Let me see your driver’s license,” Chief Crumpler says in the video. Cortez quickly responded:
“You can go (expletive) off. Call your supervisor here,” Cortez quickly shot back.
“I’m the Chief of Police,” Crumpler responded.
“Then call somebody else,” Cortez replied.
Cortez says he didn’t know Crumpler was actually a police officer, since Crumpler had on a polo shirt and was in an unmarked unit. Police point out Crumpler had lights on his car, had a police badge etched on his shirt and had his name and position embroidered on the shirt. They say he also had on cargo-style pants police commonly wear.
Cortez refused to hand over his license and asked the Chief to call uniformed officers.
A uniformed officer arrived and politely told Cortez he was on private property and he wasn’t supposed to be there since there were no trespassing signs on the entrance.
“I mean this isn’t locked or closed or anything right?” Cortez responded.
- Pilot, passenger uninjured as plane crashes into semi-truck, makes emergency landing on I-985
- Fires at Atlanta Target, Walmarts set as shoplifting distractions, officials say
- Teen in critical condition after being shot while taking out the trash for his mom, police say
Cortez told Channel 2′s Tom Jones he felt he had a right to be there.
“I’m a taxpayer. I should be able to enjoy a public park without being harassed,” he said, although he admitted he didn’t live in the city.
Police say the property is not a park. It is a city property with plans to use it for private events.
The video continues with Major Mark Woodall arriving on the scene. He told Cortez he has to obey an officer’s commands. Cortez replied there are police impersonators and he shouldn’t obey commands if he doesn’t know the person is a real officer.
That’s when Major Woodall gets more aggressive.
“Get it out. That’s a state law. We have probable cause to arrest you,” he screamed in the video.
Cortez says he felt threatened and got out of the car and handed over his license. He said felt like his rights were violated and police were out to make money off citations.
“This was truly a shakedown,” he told Jones.
Police say this was simply a matter of a driver trespassing and refusing to hand over his license, which is required by law.
“Had the driver just complied and provided his driver’s license to the Chief, he probably would have just given him a warning and sent him on his way,” Captain J.W. Guest told Jones.
Cortez was also upset an officer cursed at him and searched his car without his consent. Police said Cortez used abusive language and officers only went into his car to retrieve a gun for officer safety. They say once they realized it was unloaded, they immediately put it back.
Cortez was given a citation for disorderly conduct. He says he was found guilty of that charge when he went to court.
“The last thing I remember is the judge saying all of this could have been prevented if I would have just handed him my ID,” he recalled.
He says he had to pay a $575 fine. He still disapproves of how officers handled the stop. He thought they were overly aggressive and out of line.
Police say the video tells what really happened. The video shows Woodall explaining to Cortez after he cooperated that he is giving him a citation with the least fine. He said he could have taken him to jail and impounded his car, but didn’t. Another officer even invited Cortez to arrange a meeting with the police chief to talk about training his dogs at the property.
Cortez wasn’t buying it. He still thinks the stop was about police power and his race.
“I looked suspicious. In 2023, a Hispanic person in a public park looks suspicious,” he said.
Officers say that’s not the case. They say the District has been hit by an arsonist recently and has had problems with vandalism, so they keep an eye on the property to protect taxpayers’ investment.
[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]
They say they have been inundated with calls, emails and negative posts on social media about the incident, but that officers say the people of Morrow and others who know them know officers were doing their job that day.
Cortez is looking to hire a lawyer.
On the video, Major Woodall even suggests a well-known metro Atlanta lawyer for him.
IN OTHER NEWS:
©2022 Cox Media Group