A La Paz, Arizona police officer who pulled over a black man last September over an air freshener in his rear-view mirror has been fired.
Deputy Eli Max was fired from the La Paz County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona last month, February 19, La Paz Sheriff’s Captain Curt Bagby announced recently.
The black man, Phillip Colbert, said he was driving down Arizona State Route 95 on September 19 to meet his father for lunch when he realized that Max was following him.
According to 22-year-old Colbert, he was driving below the speed limit, nevertheless, the deputy went ahead to follow him closely for about 10 minutes.
At that moment, Colbert said he started recording the incident. The video, which was uploaded on YouTube and soon went viral, shows Max telling Colbert that he was pulled over because of a “small pine tree air freshener dangling from his rear-view mirror.”
Max is further seen asking Colbert eight times if he smokes marijuana and if he had any cocaine or heroin in the car.
The deputy then asked the 22-year-old what his father does for a living before trying to compel him to take a field sobriety test and allow his car to be searched.
“I denied any of the sobriety tests,” Colbert said. “I denied him checking the car because I felt as soon as he checked the car, he was going to try to put something in there.”
Ultimately, Colbert was not arrested; he also didn’t receive a ticket. He filed a complaint about Max to the sheriff’s office while his video caught attention nationwide. Colbert later sued the sheriff’s department, and the case was settled for $15,000, Newsweek reports.
Apparently, that was one of the many times Max had been involved in incidents of racial profiling.
A couple named Larry and Janet Briggs told ABC 15 that Max racially profiled them on Labor Day Weekend in 2019. They said the deputy stopped them after they accidentally rolled through a stop sign.
For over an hour, Max repeatedly asked them if they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, even though they had tested negative on their field sobriety tests and being unlawfully detained for a dog search.
“I remember his parting words were, ‘I know you’re under the influence of something I just can’t provide it,” Larry Briggs said. “I was like how many times can you be wrong about something in the same day.”
Police records show that before getting fired, Max was placed under internal investigation and put on administrative leave on September 30.
He is, however, appealing his firing.