Clark County District Court Judge Darvin Zimmerman on Tuesday officially issued an apology and announced he is taking time off after he was caught on video making racist comments about a Black man who was fatally shot by the police last year.
The deceased Black man Zimmerman made the comments about – Kevin Peterson Jr. – was fatally shot multiple times by three Clark County deputies when he was trying to sell Xanax pills to a confidential informant on October 29, court documents obtained by the Associated Press stated. Though the 21-year-old was armed at the time of the shooting, investigators found no evidence of him firing his weapon. Zimmerman’s son, a Clark County deputy, was also present at the scene but was not among the officers who opened fire.
In the video that was shared on YouTube last week and remained on the platform for hours, Zimmerman, in a conversation with a court official, referred to Peterson as “the Black guy they were trying to make an angel out of”, adding that he felt the deceased had a death wish and “was so dumb,” The Columbian reported.
Zimmerman also said Peterson’s father had admitted to a police chaplain his son’s killing was justified but, “the next day, he wakes up with dollar signs in his eyes and George Floyd’s attorneys had already contacted him.” The judge also likened a GoFundMe that had been set up for Peterson to “getting money under false pretenses”, as he said the page in question claimed the deceased did not have any weapon on him at the time of the shooting.
Zimmerman’s comments were met with swift criticism from his colleague District Court judges while prosecutors whose criminal cases he was presiding over said they were going to request his removal from them, The Columbian reported. A prominent law firm also called for his resignation.
In a statement on Monday, Clark County District Court also condemned the judge’s comments. “Racial bias displayed by a judge is unacceptable, unethical, unjust and cannot be tolerated,” the statement said, adding that it “denounces all forms of racism and will not allow racial bias to pervade our courtrooms.”
Zimmerman had initially told the news outlet: “Any time we lose a life, it is a tragedy; Kevin Peterson is no exception.” He, however, did not offer an apology and did not respond to the allegations of his comments being racist.
Zimmerman changed course on Tuesday and apologized for his comments, adding that he was going to take a break.
“I have always prided myself in being open minded, fair and just in my duties as a judicial officer. I do understand that even my personal comments, when made public, bring about an outcry of concern because I am a judicial officer,” he said in the statement. “I am very sorry for that. I have decided to take some time off to reflect on my behavior and to determine what I can do to help heal the community I have served.”
Zimmerman’s attorney, Josephine C. Townsend, also told The Columbian the judge had personally reported his comments to the Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission will investigate the incident and decide on the next line of action.