A Vallejo, Calif., police officer has been placed on administrative leave and is facing a lawsuit after a video showed him pulling his gun on a motorcyclist and then forcefully detaining another man for recording the incident on his phone.
The interaction was captured in a video that was widely shared on Facebook and prompted the Vallejo Police Department to investigate. Officer David McLaughlin was placed on administrative leave Monday, according to the Police Department.
“After viewing the video, Chief Andrew Bidou ordered an internal affairs investigation of the incident even though we have not received any citizen’s complaint regarding the traffic stop,” the department said in its first statement, which did not name McLaughlin.
The statement said the incident was also captured by the officer’s body camera, and that recording will be reviewed. In a second statement, issued Monday, the Police Department said it would not comment further on the investigation.
In the viral Facebook video posted by Adrian Burrell, 28, on Thursday, McLaughlin can be seen walking toward a motorcyclist, who was parked in a home’s driveway and had his hands up. McLaughlin asks him, “Why you taking off like that?” as he walks, with his gun drawn by his hip.
When the officer sees Burrell on the front porch, recording with his phone, McLaughlin tells him to “get back.”
“Nope,” Burrell responded.
McLaughlin then approached Burrell, his gun still drawn, and tried to detain him.
“Stop resisting,” the officer said.
“I’m not resisting you,” Burrell replied.
The image in the video shakes and the camera falls to the ground.
Burrell later said on Facebook that McLaughlin smashed his face against a wall and swung his body around, causing his head to hit a wooden pillar. He was detained and placed in the back seat of the officer’s cruiser. But when he complained the handcuffs and his position in the car made him uncomfortable because of an injury he suffered as a Marine, he said McLaughlin’s demeanor changed and he released him.
“I think … the way I looked, the way I was dressed, maybe there were certain assumptions made,” Burrell said in an interview with The Times on Tuesday. “When that came out, it kind of changed.”
Burrell said McLaughlin had pulled over the motorcyclist, who is his cousin, because he looked like someone the officer had seen speeding earlier that day.
Burrell said he feared for his and his cousin’s lives. Both are black. McLaughlin is white.
If the situation had escalated, Burrell said, it wouldn’t have mattered that he was a Marine.
“I felt like somebody was coming in aggressively and attacking us, and in this situation, they have a gun and the only thing I have is a camera,” Burrell said. “I felt, I can’t not use my weapon.”
Several people have reached out to Burrell, citing negative experiences with McLaughlin and other Vallejo officers, he said. And soon after he published his post, video of another incident in which McLaughlin was involved surfaced. In that instance, McLaughlin was not on duty — he was dressed casually in a white T-shirt and gray cargo pants — when he drew his gun on a man in a Walnut Creek, Calif., plaza.
The man said in an interview with KTVU-TV Channel 2 that McLaughlin had asked him, “What are you looking at?” After a verbal altercation, he drew his gun. He didn’t immediately identify himself as an officer, witnesses said.
In 2014, McLaughlin faced a civil rights lawsuit for allegedly similar behavior. According to the complaint, he pointed a gun at a man he had pulled over and said, “If you move I will blow your … head off.”
The lawsuit also claimed McLaughlin helped fabricate a police report stating the man had window tinting and was in possession of a controlled substance. According to the man’s attorney, he did not.
John Burris, an Oakland civil rights attorney representing Burrell, said he plans to serve a lawsuit against the Vallejo officer in the coming weeks.
“[Burrell] was at home, he had a right to videotape [and] he did not walk toward the officer,” Burris said, adding McLaughlin carried “police attitude that we rule the streets.”
“He had problems here [in Oakland], and he’s certainly had other problems in Vallejo,” Burris said.
McLaughlin served in the Oakland Police Department before joining the Vallejo department in 2014. It’s unclear what the problems allegedly were in Oakland that Burris referenced, but in Vallejo, McLaughlin has been involved in two police shootings, according to the Mercury News.
In 2016, he and another officer shot a suspect who police said was driving toward them. No one was injured. In 2017, he and another officer shot a man after a pursuit in Richmond, Calif., and that man died.