Video footage of a Riverside County Sheriff pointing a firearm at an Army veteran following a traffic stop Sunday evening in Palm Desert, California, is going viral.
The video was recorded by 26-year-old Alex Espinoza Natividad, a resident of Indio, who began filming the encounter after his friend, the driver of the vehicle, 26-year-old Michael Jude Jean-Baptiste was pulled over for blocking the middle lane of a busy street.
According to police, when the officer approached the vehicle, Jean-Baptiste looked disoriented and unresponsive. The officer smelled the scent of marijuana and called the paramedics.
The officer tried to turn off the ignition to the car, but Jean-Baptiste took off, driving a short distance before he pulled over. That’s when both men exited the vehicle and Natividad began recording.
“We have no weapons. We are not a threat to you. Why are you pointing a gun at me? I am not a threat. I got out of the car and surrendered to you,” Natividad says in the video, as his friend is on the ground.
The officer ordered Natividad to also get on the ground, but he refused, believing he had done nothing to warrant the officer pointing a gun in his direction.
“I served in the United States Army, OK? I am scared for my freaking life right now,” says Natividad, a veteran, who told KCAL 9 that he was medically discharged for a personality disorder.
Eventually, Natividad followed the officer’s request to get on the ground. Both were handcuffed. Jean-Baptiste was arrested and now faces charges for suspicion of driving while impaired on drugs. Natividad was released.
“I’m not saying it’s all completely their fault. And it’s not completely mine. The situation could’ve been handled way differently,” Natividad said.
Though, from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department perspective, the officer did his job just fine.
“I didn’t see anything in the video that stood out to me as a violation of our policy,” Capt. Andrew Shouse told The Desert Sun. “He is not on administrative leave, and he is back at work.”
The captain also had a message to the public.
“We encourage the community to remain inside the vehicle and not to exit the vehicle unless they’re directed to do so by a police officer,” he said.