A police officer was fired after being caught on camera threatening a crowd of people to back away because he was “trigger happy.”
The decision to let Officer Stephen Barone go was the result of both internal investigations and a formal hearing process following the August incident as well as a July traffic incident, Hartford, Connecticut, Police Chief David Rosado said in a statement Wednesday.
“I did not make this decision lightly,” Rosado said. “After reviewing the findings related to these two incidents, it’s clear to me that there’s no scenario in which Mr. Barone can return to his duties as a productive member of the Hartford Police Department.”
The video, shot by one of the men Barone stopped, captured him telling a group suspected of trespassing, “If anybody wants to fight or run, I’m a little trigger-happy, guys, I’m not gonna lie.”
He added that he wouldn’t be eligible for overtime if he shoots someone, claiming he’d lose $70,000 and would have to sell his home and his cars. “So don’t do anything stupid. All right?”
The group was stopped around 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 outside of an abandoned building. Officers searched them for contraband and gave them tickets for trespassing. One of the suspects can be heard calling Barone’s words “spooky.”
The investigation concluded that Barone, who is white, didn’t violate the civil rights of the group, who are mostly black and Hispanic. But community leaders and pastors told the Hartford Courant that the incident highlighted problems that arise with a mostly white police department that doesn’t reflect the makeup of the city.
“He had a weapon. His badge gave him a lot of authority. And he abused it,” Abdul Shahid Ansari, president of the Greater Hartford branch of the NAACP, told the Courant.
The investigation also determined that Barone never called off a police chase in July. He was demoted in September while the police department investigated his conduct, a move he appealed.
Barone said in an internal affairs interview that he could have used “a better choice of words,” but maintained that they were “effective in maintaining control.”