An Arizona police officer threatened an immigrant with death if he moved after his car was stopped for an unclear reason, a video uploaded to YouTube by an immigrant rights activist appears to show.
Teodulo Sánchez, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in the United States for 14 years, said he was returning home to Mesa, Arizona, on Friday afternoon from a job in Yuma where he works as a plumber when he was stopped by police in the town of Buckeye. Sánchez said he noticed an unmarked car following him before he was stopped, which he made him nervous and prompted him to film the interaction.
Erika Andiola, co-director of the immigrant advocacy group DRM Action Coalition, uploaded the video to YouTube.
In the video, the officer who approaches Sánchez speaks English at first, then switches to Spanish after Sánchez identifies himself. The officer asks Sánchez if he has any guns in the car. Sánchez replies that he had only work tools.
The officer asks him to put his hands on the steering wheel and keep them where he can see them.
“If you do anything, I’ll kill you right here,” the officer says as Sánchez hands over his driver’s license. Though Sánchez tells the officer he is recording the incident, the cop repeats the threat: "If you move, I'll shoot you. You understand?"
The 1:14 minute video cuts off shortly after the threat. Sánchez said he was stopped for about 20 minutes total and was released without charges.
“I really thought they he was going to shoot me,” Sánchez told The Huffington Post. “He had a pistol in his hand and was pointing it at me the whole time.”
Sánchez said the policeman searched the car for drugs and guns, finding nothing. But he said that after searching the car, the officer told him he had stopped him because of an identification sticker on his rear window that he uses to enter the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma when he works there. He said the police told him not to use the sticker when he leaves the base, although his employers at the base have not told him to remove it.
Sánchez, who has a wife and two young children, said he planned to file a complaint with the department on Monday.
Update, 2:15 p.m. -- In a press release, the Buckeye Police Department said that before stopping Sanchez, officers had received information that a car similar to his was "allegedly carrying a large amount of illegal narcotics with a possible armed occupant." Police say they stopped Sanchez for a traffic violation, and that he allegedly refused to comply with the officer's requests to lower the windows and turn off the ignition.
"With the information that the driver may be armed, and the fact that he was not obeying the officer's commands, this heightened the officer's concern for safety," the release says.
Police say they did not find any drugs or guns in Sanchez's car and released him. The Buckeye Police Department is conducting an administrative inquiry, according to the release.