A Pennsylvania Police Chief who was seen in a viral video yelling at a pregnant Black woman and also harassing her during a confrontation at a pharmacy was suspended for three days without pay.
According to Newsweek, the incident involving Homestead police chief Jeff Desimone and Kamahlai Stewart, an expectant Black mother, drew the ire of the public after the video went viral. Desimone’s suspension by the Homestead local borough council was announced on Thursday, August 19.
In the video of the incident which occurred at the Giant Eagle pharmacy last week, Desimone is seen going on an angry rant and ordering Stewart to leave the pharmacy though she hasn’t been served. The issue stemmed from Desimone wanting to be prioritized and served before Stewart. The police chief was in mufti and driving an unmarked car at the time of the incident.
Stewart, in an interview with WPXI, said Desimone started yelling at her after shortly after he switched on the police lights of the unmarked vehicle. She added that she was with her son at the time of the incident.
“What were you thinking to put myself, my unborn child and my 5-year-old ill son in danger like this?” Stewart said. “I was shocked, appalled. I can’t believe you, of all people—you’re the chief of police—for you to turn on your lights and try to intimidate me was totally an abuse of power.”
The video of the confrontation was recorded by the Black mother after the police chief reportedly started hurling expletives before making a call for backup. The officer also took issue with a worker at the pharmacy and was seen yelling at the employee.
Despite the backlash, Desimone downplayed the incident, claiming it stemmed out of a “little dispute.” The law enforcement officer also said his job and position were enough reasons for him to be given priority in the pharmacy.
But during the council meeting on Thursday, a section of Black residents alleged this isn’t the first time the police chief has misbehaved. They also called for his termination instead of temporarily relieving him of his duties, Newsweek reported. Stewart and her husband also said they want Desimone relieved of his duties although his suspension was “a start.”
However, Homestead Mayor Betty Esper had a different opinion. “Everybody’s got a different disposition,” Esper told WPXI. “He’s [been] here 20-some years. I mean, come on, he’s never abused anybody. There’s two sides to every story, also.”