An off-duty deputy constable from Lawrence Township, about 75 miles south of Indianapolis, has been fired after a now-viral cellphone video showed him harassing two cousins in a parking lot after they shopped at a Nordstrom Rack in Castleton, Ind., on Nov. 12.
According to a report from RTV6, Lawrence Township Constable Terry Burns confirmed the man was a deputy constable who moonlighted as a security guard at the upscale discount store. He did not disclose his name.
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Aaron Blackwell and Durell Cunningham, who are Black, accused the deputy constable of racially-profiling them while they were inside the suburban Nordstrom Rack location. Blackwell and Cunningham said they made their purchases, and he followed them outside when they left the store. The deputy constable never made contact with the men inside the store.
The man reportedly watched the cousins get into Cunningham’s car. Blackwell pulled out his cellphone and began to record from the passenger seat of the vehicle. Before the two men could leave the parking lot, the deputy constable got in his vehicle and approached the men, who had pulled out of their parking space. He jumped out of the security vehicle and headed to their car that was now parked in front of the store with the hazard lights on. The video lasted more than 17 minutes.
As Blackwell continued recording, the man asked Cunningham for his driver’s license.
“What do you need my ID for?” Cunningham was heard asking the deputy constable in the video.
“Because you want to run your mouth to me,” the former constable yelled.
“There was no need to ask me for my driver’s license,” Cunningham said. “He didn’t pull me over for an infraction or anything.”
The uniformed man eventually said that he stopped them because they looked “suspicious.”
It is a Class C misdemeanor to not show a form of identification when an officer makes the request, according to Indiana Statute 34-28-5-3.5. However, the officer requesting the information has to have a suspicion based on fact. In this incident, his suspicions weren’t based on any evidence of a crime.
During the intense interaction, Cunningham and Blackwell asked the deputy to identify himself multiple times. He refused. They also requested a supervisor to which he responded, “There’s no one above me.”
Eventually, the agitated man called for backup from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).
An IMPD officer arrived on the scene to investigate and asked if the cousins had stolen something.
“No, they didn’t steal items,” the deputy constable told the IMPD officer in the video. “They bought a bunch of stuff, but when they were sitting right here I was trying to get their license plate and he hollers out the window, ‘You’re not getting my plate,’ and he takes off.”
The men in the vehicle disputed the security guard’s account. The IMPD officer and security guard briefly moved behind the vehicle to discuss the altercation. The officer then came back to the vehicle to speak with the men while the security guard walked away. The men explained the situation, and the officer said he didn’t see that they had done anything wrong.
According to RTV6, there was no report filed regarding the incident. The next day, Burns fired the belligerent deputy constable after he viewed the video.
“He was terminated last night when the video was brought to my attention,” Burns told RTV6. “I did see the video and made the decision immediately and that pretty much speaks of my reaction.”
Nordstrom reached out to Blackwell after he posted the video on Youtube and contacted the store’s loss prevention supervisor. Blackwell said Nordstrom told him the deputy constable also was terminated from his security guard position there.