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White cop fired after telling Black, Hispanic men he was ‘trigger happy’

Connecticut

Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 10/19/2018, 11:05 a.m.
A white police officer in Hartford, Connecticut, was relieved of duty and...

A white police officer in Hartford, Connecticut, was relieved of duty and then fired after he reportedly told some men of color that he gets “paid a ton of money in overtime if I have to shoot somebody…” reports the Independent.

The officer had stopped a group of men, who were mostly Black and Hispanic, on suspicion of trespassing when he issued a fairly threatening warning. “If anybody wants to fight or run, I’m a little trigger happy guys,” he told the men in August. “I’m not gonna lie." He added: “You know, I get paid a ton of money in overtime if I have to shoot somebody so don’t do anything stupid.”

One of the men being addressed recorded the officer’s comments in a video that was posted to Facebook and quickly went viral. Now, two months after the incident, the Hartford police officer involved, identified as Stephen Barone, has been fired. Barone lost his job earlier this week after an internal investigation of the encounter and a separate traffic-related incident in July, according to a statement from the Hartford Police Dept.

“It’s clear to me that there’s no scenario in which Barone can return to his duties as a productive member of the Hartford Police Department,” said the city’s police chief, David Rosado, in the statement. In the video, Barone told the men he had stopped them after receiving complaints about their presence in the area. He asked them for their information and said he needed to check whether they were carrying illegal substances or weapons. That is when he mentioned his gun. When the men expressed their concern about his comments to him, the officer responded: “There’s four of you, one of me.”

The man who said he recorded the video, Rashawn Johnson, told NBC News in August that he and his friends were drinking on the front porch outside of a friend’s house when the officer arrived. “We were all just in shock to hear him say that,” he said. In a second video of the incident, Barone is shown walking back his threats after other officers arrive at the scene. The extra footage was released by Hartford police in September. In that video, Barone said his comments were meant to mess with the men’s minds (though “mess” wasn’t the four-letter verb that he used).

As the men continued to question Barone about his comments, he told them he had been joking — again, not the word he used. “When you shoot somebody or you shoot at somebody while you’re under investigation, you get no overtime,” he said, seeming to backtrack on his earlier comments. He said he would lose “$70,000 if I shot somebody,” and he wasn’t going to risk losing that money. Barone, who said in the video that he had worked for the Hartford police for 10 years, was placed on administrative leave the day after the incident. He was then demoted in early September, forced to take a salary cut and assigned to desk duty, the Hartford Courant reported.