Dozens of police officers in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Antioch are being probed after it was learned that excerpts from their personal group chat allegedly contained racist and homophobic text messages.
The city’s mayor and citizens alike are outraged at the scandal. They are now questioning if the bigoted sentiment expressed in those exchanges changes how those officers police the community.
Racist, Homophobic Text Messages Emerge Amid Probe Into Bay Area Police
The texts in question came to light on April 11 after The Bay Area News Group obtained a copy of an investigative report written by Contra Costa District Attorney Senior Inspector Larry Wallace about the group’s messages to each other.
The scandal is now at the center of an FBI investigation and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office investigation into Bay Area police departments dating back to 2019, according to ABC 7 News.
Contra Costa DA: no one in office leaked second redacted report on Antioch Officers’ racist texts
Won’t say who sent the report or to whom; issues further redacted second reporthttps://t.co/6hxBQ6Ws26 pic.twitter.com/1HUxonIHkK
— Contra Costa Herald (@cocoherald) April 17, 2023
The investigations named 17 officers as participants in the chats, which make up roughly a quarter of the Antioch Police Department.
However, the East Bay Times reports that 44 Antioch officers have gotten as least one text message included in the investigation of the group.
17 Officers Place On Leave Before Report Emerged Showing Pattern Of Racist Epithets
Seventeen of those officers have been placed on leave as of Wednesday, April 12.
The text messages reportedly emerged Friday, April 14, in a 14-page report. They allegedly revealed a pattern of officers using racial epithets about African-Americans and showed a sense of satisfaction in using violence against them.
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“I’ll bury that n—-r in my fields,” Antioch Sgt. Joshua Evans allegedly texted Officer Morteza Amiri in December 2020.
Amiri texted Officer Eric Rombough In February 2020: “Nshowingo they didn’t push it that far. Bunch of gorillas surrounding us and taunting a fight since we were hooking [epithet].”
Texts Allegedly Openly Admit To Violating Citizens’ Constitutional Rights
The messages, which weren’t limited to only Antioch officers, allegedly also reveal officers openly admitting to violating citizens’ constitutional rights.
“Since we don’t have video I sometimes just say people gave me a full confession when they didn’t. Gets filed easier,” Amiri texted an officer in Brentwood, another Contra Costa County city, in April 2020.
A year later, in 2021, The Antioch City Council voted the following year to equip its officers with body cameras.
Other messages emerged showing officers expressing their desire for racial violence while on the job.
In March 2021, Antioch officers planned a raid to arrest 22-year-old Terryonn Pugh and Trent Allen. One report document shows Officer Rombough texting Detective Robert Gerber:
“Bro I can’t wait to forty all of them,” referring to using the nonlethal sponge rounds officers use during a raid.
— For years, Antioch officers routinely used private text messaging groups to flaunt their racist views, spouting slurs in front of superiors without fear of reprisal. Inside the Antioch police department’s secret racist texting group https://t.co/xeUYpd2XFm
— Kenny Akers (@KeneAkers) April 13, 2023
Raid Allegedly Marred By Racist Text Messages Between Officers
Several days after the raid, Rombough allegedly messaged another officer, “Bro, my foot hurts.” The officer asked if it was because he’d kicked one of the men, and Rombough replied, “Yup, like a f*****g field goal,” before adding, “Gotta stop kicking n*****s in their head.”
Pugh’s lawyer Carmela Caramagno also called out the city’s racist officers while speaking to ABC7. Antioch’s population is around 24 percent Black, according to 2020 census data.
“It is clear that the Antioch Police Department has treated that community like a war zone, and the community members as if they were hostiles.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Lamar Thorpe called for a special meeting to discuss the text messages. The town hall discussion eventually ended with emotions running high and many up in arms.
Thorpe — an African-American man — said he was “disgusted” by what he learned about the text messages.
20% of the Antioch, California police department has been placed on leave following an investigation into racist text messages between police officers. One offered a steak dinner to whoever shot a non-lethal projectile at the mayor during the BLM protests. https://t.co/9kcnDlzCL4
— Deb WARRIOR WOMAN Farmer 🇺🇸 (@realdebfarmer) April 15, 2023
Black Mayor Is Reportedly Targeted In Several Text Messages
The report also revealed that during a chat about a Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2020, Officer John Ramirez allegedly sent a text saying he’d buy a prime rib dinner at a steakhouse for whichever officer used .40mm sponge bullets against Thorpe.
“I’m blown away that there were threats to my personal life in those text messages,” Thorpe said this week about the threat, CBS News reported.
The mayor is now calling for all of the officers featured in the investigation to be fired.
The FBI is reportedly involved and began looking into the APD and the Pittsburg Police Department after receiving reports suggesting officers were engaged in illegal activity. The officers in question were not only accused of violating citizens’ civil rights. But also of reportedly dealing drugs like cocaine and steroids, intentionally using excessive force, and accepting bribes.