DeSOTO, Texas - The DeSoto Police Department is responding to a viral video that shows a police officer pointing his service weapon at an unarmed bicyclist.
The video titled “First Amendment right to record in public” was posted on YouTube over the weekend. It has already been viewed by thousands of people.
Charles Dominguez, a 33-year-old DeSoto resident, recorded the video while riding a bicycle through a parking lot. He rides behind a DeSoto police officer’s marked SUV. The officer stops the SUV and gets out with his weapon drawn.
“Sir if you keep following me I’m going to take it as a threat,” the officer says in the video.
“I’m just riding my bike,” Dominguez replies.
Many people who commented on the video condemned the officer’s actions and called him paranoid, out-of-control and dangerous. Dominguez hired an attorney and filed an official an official complaint.
In a news release, DeSoto PD said it has seen the video and admits the officers’ actions are concerning. But the department also said the two-minute clip doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The DeSoto Police Department recognizes the fact that the video posted on YouTube of an interaction between our officer and a subject riding a bicycle while video recording the officer is very serious. The actions of our officer are concerning," the department said. "However, we should not rush to judgment until all the facts and information are ascertained. Too often an opinion is formed depending on a small amount of information and there is a failure to see the whole picture due to the lack of information."
DeSoto PD says it's familiar with Dominguez, who frequently follows officers and firefighters as they are working in the city.
“This behavior, at times, can interfere with the duties of the officers and cause safety concerns to the officer as well as the citizens involved in the specific event,” police said.
The department referenced other videos that show Dominguez filming officers in January. In several instances, police said he cursed at officers and made hateful remarks.
He was arrested on Jan. 25 for outstanding warrants from another city. When he returned to the police station a few days later to pick up his bike, he was arrested again for interfering with public duties.
DeSoto PD said while at the police station he began recording an officer who was collecting personal information from a woman who was filing a complaint. That same officer is the one seen in the viral video.
“The involved officer later contacted his supervisor, advised him of this incident and a department administration review was initiated. This contact is currently under review by the DeSoto Police Department Administration,” police said.
“My officers and I respect the rights of all citizens including the First Amendment. I also respect the fact that Mr. Dominguez and others want to be sure that police officers conduct themselves in a professional and fair manner, therefore, they deem it important to video record our actions while performing our duties in public view," Chief Joe Costa said in the news release. "However, I do have an issue when that behavior interferes with our duties, causes safety concerns and infringes on other citizens’ rights during a police contact. I also have issue with the fact that our officers have been harassed and belittled by the actions of Mr. Dominguez and that's not right!”
Dominguez and his attorney, Corwyn Davis, are defending what he does.
"I'm scared to come out of my house," Dominguez told FOX 4.
"He wasn't giving the officer a reason to fear for his own safety or anyone else's, then the officer didn't have a right to pull his weapon on him. And I think that's just it," Davis said. "Just because you're a good guy and a good cop on a bad day does not mean you get a slap on the wrist and you get to go back out and patrol DeSoto and mess with people like Mr. Dominguez regardless of what he does."
DeSoto PD said it will continue conducting interviews and investigating the incident.