FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Fort Worth Police Department said that it has removed an officer from uniformed patrol and launched an administrative investigation after receiving a video that appears to show him using pepper spray on a group of bikers.
“He definitely put a lot of lives at risk,” said Brittany Botello, the driver of a red pickup truck seen parked in front of the officer in the video.
Botello was driving alongside the bikers as part of the same group. Her passengers were shooting video of the bikers with their cell phones. She said that the officer, identified by the department only as six-year veteran Officer W. Figueroa, had pulled her over.
Figueroa had yet to approach her truck, Botello recalled, when she and her passengers suddenly began coughing. “I thought it was sand up off the bikes that was making everyone choke and stuff, but it ended up being the mace,” she said.
Marcus Hernandez said that he was sitting in the bed of the truck when he saw a cloud of the spray drifting toward him. “I got asthma, so I couldn’t breathe. It was pretty bad,” Hernandez explained. “I said, ‘Why you’d spray us?’ and he said, ‘Because I felt the bikes were too close to my vehicle.'”
Botello said that the officer then opened her passenger door and grabbed her friend’s cell phone, claiming that it was evidence in the case. “He snatched her phone without even asking for it. That’s when he started demanding everybody else’s,” she said.
Other drivers reported seeing the riders doing stunts, speeding and taking over the road, as captured on a second YouTube video. That video even shows the red pickup truck with its passengers standing up in the bed of the truck as it drives down the highway.
One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she could see the pickup truck’s passengers crawling through the back window, moving between the cab and the bed, as they traveled down the highway. Botello disputes that account, saying that it was a well-organized ride. “I wouldn’t be out there if I thought it was dangerous,” she said. “I’m six months pregnant, so that wouldn’t work.”
Botello was ticketed for not having a driver’s license. But she said that the only real danger came from the officer’s actions. “I think he needs to be fired,” she said.
Fort Worth police said that they have not received any formal complaint, but “proactively began an investigation upon receipt of the video.” Figueroa has been placed on administrative duty.