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Officer resigns after not helping woman harassed for wearing Puerto Rico flag shirt

An Illinois police officer has resigned after being criticized for not intervening as a man harassed a woman for wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt.

In the incident caught on video last month at a northwestern Chicago park, the woman pleads for help as the man harasses her, saying her shirt is un-American. The officer initially appears to ignore the pleas.

Mia Irizarry said she was celebrating her 24th birthday at Caldwell Woods park when the man approached her and asked her why she was wearing the sleeveless Puerto Rico flag shirt. It also had ‘Puerto Rico’ written below the neckline.

Irizarry recorded the encounter on her phone, saying she felt threatened, and posted the video to Facebook.

On Monday, Forest Preserves of Cook County, which administers the park, tweeted it was aware of the June 14 incident and video, and it had launched an investigation.

The officer resigned Wednesday and the investigation into the incident continues, the agency said.

“His personnel file will reflect that this officer did not resign in good standing, with a note indicating that he left the district with discipline pending,” the park agency’s general superintendent, Arnold Randall, said Thursday.

Prosecutors considering hate crime charges

Timothy G. Trybus, the man police said harassed Irizarry, was arrested on the day of the incident on charges of assault and disorderly conduct, according to a police report. The report alleges he was intoxicated.

Trybus is scheduled for his first court appearance August 1, said the Cook County Circuit Court.

Prosecutors are considering whether to file hate crime charges in the case, Cook County state’s attorney’s spokeswoman, Tandra Simonton, said Thursday.

Cook County Commissioner Jesús ‘Chuy’ García had called for such charges against Trybus a day earlier.

“A charge for simple assault or disorderly conduct is not sufficient,” García said. “We cannot allow that ugly rhetoric to be the norm in Cook County.”

Trybus will be represented by a public defender but one has not been assigned to him yet, said the public defender’s office. CNN has attempted to reach Trybus for comment.

Randall said his agency has apologized to Irizarry and refunded the money she had paid for a permit to gather at a picnic table area on the day of the incident.

He said his agency would re-examine the diversity training for its officers and other employees.

“It’s up to each and every one of us to present a better model to demonstrate, with our own actions, how to treat each other with more respect,” he told reporters Thursday. “We might start with the fine example presented by Mia Irizarry and her family, who handled this ugly incident with great composure, never stooping to the level of the man who attacked her.”

The incident

In the footage, a man can be seen approaching Irizarry saying: “You should not be wearing that in the United States of America.” He gets closer to her and asks “Are you a citizen? Are you a United States citizen?”

Irizarry said Puerto Rico is part of the United States, and the man approaches her multiple times. She asks a park police officer to help, saying: “I am renting this area, and he’s harassing me about the shirt that I’m wearing.”

Later, she says: “Officer, I feel entirely uncomfortable, can you remove… please, officer” as the officer is seen walking away from her.

Then, she says: “Officer, I’m renting, I paid for a permit for this area. I do not feel comfortable with him here. Is there anything you can do?”

The officer can then be seen talking to the man who gesticulates back and tells him to “shut the f*** up.”

More police arrive, and Irizarry says she still doesn’t feel safe. The man resumes his abuse, saying: “You’re not American. If you were American, you wouldn’t wear that. You know that, right?”

A female officer asks to see his ID and can be heard telling him he’s intoxicated, to which he replies: “Well, that’s your judgment.” She explains Irizarry has a permit, and she warns him he could be arrested “for not being compliant.”

“You don’t come here harassing people,” the officer continues. “People have just as much right to be here as you and, when you’re drunk, you don’t belong here.”

The female officer then speaks with Irizarry, who gives her version of the incident, and the officer explains they were called to the area after a report a man was choking a woman.

Eventually, the first officer on the scene takes notes of Irizarry’s account of the incident and says he was at the scene due to the separate incident, noting she was not being attacked though acknowledging she felt threatened.

Irizarry can be heard explaining to the officer the incident began when they had asked the group the man was in if they could move as they had a permit for the area. She said the group politely complied but her Puerto Rico shirt appeared to act as a trigger to the man.

Puerto Rico is a US commonwealth with its own constitution rather than a state. Puerto Rican residents have been American citizens since 1917 and have the right to vote in US presidential primaries but not in presidential elections.