News station KTVU has published the full 911 audio recordings of an infamous incident involving a white Oakland woman calling police over two black men grilling in a park. The outlet obtained the audio from a California Public Records Act request.
Jennifer Schulte called 911 on April 29, reporting that the men were using a portable charcoal grill in a public area near the city’s Lake Merritt that only permits noncharcoal portable grills.
The incident went viral in part because of a video filmed by Michelle Snider, the wife of Kenzie Smith, one of the men who was grilling. He had contacted Snider, who is white, after Schulte first called the cops. Schulte soon became widely known as “BBQ Becky” on social media.
The newly released audio, which can be heard above, includes the full-length recordings of two phone calls Schulte made to 911. You can read KTVU’s full report on the calls here. Some key moments include:
Schulte tells the first dispatcher that she was reporting the incident “so that coals don’t burn more children.” (Back in April, Oakland parks department spokeswoman Dana Riley told HuffPost that the last known incident of a child being burned by coal at the lake was in 2015.)
In the second call, which involves a different dispatcher, a much more frantic-sounding Schulte says it’s been two hours since her earlier call and asks repeatedly where police are. The voices of Snider and some unidentified people can be heard in the background.
The dispatcher seems confused about why Schulte is still in the same general area and asks multiple times if Schulte can walk away. At one point she asks, “Can you get away from them? Are you living in the park or something?” (Schulte, whose now-deleted LinkedIn profile said she worked for an environmental firm, does not live in the park.)
Schulte states that people are harassing and “following her.” Snider can be heard repeatedly saying in the background that she’s following Schulte because Schulte took a “card” from her. Snider is saying she wants the card back. (Snider previously said that Schulte had taken her husband’s business card, which she feared Schulte would use to try and get him fired.)
Schulte initially refuses to tell the dispatcher her race, which was asked so police could more easily find her in the park. “My race doesn’t matter,” Schulte says. After some back-and-forth, she eventually says she is white.
At one point in the conversation, the dispatcher asks Schulte if she’s ever been to a local psychiatric hospital. (A previously released police report showed that based on a suggestion from the dispatcher, officers evaluated Schulte for a temporary psychiatric hold but determined she didn’t fit the criteria.)
Ultimately, police didn’t cite the people who were grilling, though they did detain and question them for more than an hour, Oakland City Council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney told HuffPost in May. McElhaney called the 911 call a clear example of blatant racism.
“Police are not private security for any white person that’s offended by the presence of black folks in our public spaces,” she said.
The phone call was one of several recent high-profile examples of people calling the police on black people for either extremely minor offenses or things that are not illegal at all.
In April, a Starbucks worker called the police on two black men who were sitting in the cafe waiting for a friend. In May, a student at Yale University called the police on a black graduate student who was napping in a dorm’s common area. In June, a woman called the cops on an 8-year-old girl selling water outside a building. And in July, actor Ving Rhames revealed that police recently held him at gunpoint in his own home after a neighbor reported a “large black man” was “breaking into” the residence.
CORRECTION: This story previously referred to Snider in two instances where it should have referred to Schulte.