California filmmaker Adrian Burrell, 28, says a cop roughed him up for recording a video as the officer pulled a gun on his cousin last Tuesday. On top of that, Burrell says the law enforcement official threatened to take him to jail, but decided to let him go because he served in the United States Marines Corps.
You can see what happened in the video above. The cop has been identified as Vallejo Police Department Officer David McLaughlin. As seen on video, he steps onto the lawn of Burrell’s home and puts his hand on his gun.
“What are you taking off like that?” he tells an individual on a motorcycle bike and wearing a helmet. In a Facebook statement, Burrell identified this individual as his cousin.
He said “McLaughlin pulled his pistol on my cousin, saying my cousin looked like someone who he saw speeding earlier. My cousin was sitting on his motorcycle in front of my house. A gun had been pulled on him because he ‘looked like someone’ the officer had seen speeding earlier. Obviously, the situation concerned me.”
As you can see, Burrell started filming, but McLaughlin told him to get back. Legal experts agree that it’s perfectly legal to film law enforcement. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, though lower federal courts have. This, in and of itself, doesn’t break the law. Problems arise whenever an officer believes that the person recording is interfering with law enforcement duties.
Burrell’s account implicitly pushes back on any notion that he got in the officer’s way. From the Facebook statement:
From roughly 20 ft away, with a railing between myself and the officer, I started filming with my phone. … I chose to stay on my porch and film because the situation was concerning. My camera panned and tilted, but I did not take one step off of the porch. At that point, officer Mclaughlin approached me as you see in the video.
As seen on footage, a physical confrontation ensues.
“Stop fighting or you’re going to go on the ground,” says McLaughlin. Burrell denies he’s fighting. Things escalate from there.
The phone clearly falls out of Burrell’s possession, so what happens next isn’t apparent. Burrell said, however, that the officer grabbed him, smashed his face against the wall, and swung him so that head knocked into a wooden pillar. This caused a concussion, he said. The handcuffs broke his skin and made his fingers numb, Burrell said.
All of this happened on Burrell’s front porch.
Burrell said that McLaughlin only let him go because of an arbitrary reason.
From his statement:
He said I was going to jail and detained me in the back seat of his car. Would I have gone to jail if I weren’t a vet with no criminal record? When the officer realized I am a Marine, he told me if I wasn’t a vet I’d be going to jail. Does that mean that if I had not been a vet, he would have put me in jail for not breaking the law? Because I am a vet, does that mean my life is more valuable? Military service does not warrant special treatment. Lack of military service does not justify mistreatment?
Burrell hired civil rights attorney John Burris over the incident, according to SF Gate. The lawyer said the officer’s actions were “unnecessary and unreasonable.”
The Vallejo PD didn’t immediately respond to that outlet, or Law&Crime for a request for comment. The police department has opened an internal affairs investigation, however.
KPIX reported that McLaughlin has been with the Vallejo Police Department since 2014, that he has been involved in two shootings and was sued for allegedly falsifying a police report. A civil lawsuit was dismissed:
In 2014, David McLaughlin was named in a suit alleging that he and another officer pulled over Frederick Cooley without cause, held him at gunpoint and searched his car.
The complaint alleges they falsified a police report saying that Cooley was in possession of a controlled substance, but the Solano County District Attorney’s Office later abandoned those charges. The civil case was dismissed after Cooley died.
[Screengrab via Adrian Burrell]