You often hear people defend officers embroiled in police brutality cases. They’re “only following protocol.” They’re shooting people “to protect themselves from threats,” real or perceived. And, most egregious of all, perhaps, they “wouldn’t have shot if the guy hadn’t done xyz.”
So, pray tell, what did this driver do to elicit a threat from a cop as egregrious as:
“I’ll blow a hole through your f---ing head” ?
Medford police detective Stephen Lebert, was caught on a driver’s dashboard camera threatening a him with violence after pulling him over for driving the wrong way at a traffic circle. The driver’s mistake wasn’t even intentional or malicious—he’d merely gotten lost on an unfamiliar one-way street.
The driver, Mike, uploaded the video with the following statement:
“Driving home today I got lost and made a wrong turn. In an unfamiliar area I drove slowly but made the mistake of not seeing a poorly marked rotary. I stopped midway through it when I realized I screwed up and fortunately there were no close calls or potential accidents. Only a single oncoming car (not the medford cop/detective in the video, he was on the other side) that had fully stopped before the rotary seeing my stupid mistake. After I stopped and realized it was too late I just continued out of the way and back onto the correct road in front of me. This man starts tailgating me and puts his high beams on in his Red Chevy Silverado pick up truck. He then yells how I’m an a--hole and that he is going to hurt me, and well the rest is in the video.”
This isn’t one of those cases someone can explain away as “cop makes mistake in heat of moment.” This was a premeditated threat, a willed decision that could have been carried out. What’s more, it was evidence of a cop using his power and his weapon to cow a citizen into submission, which is one of the very issues that those cries of “police brutality!” have been striving to bring attention to.
Lebert has been placed on administrative leave. Police Chief Leo Sacco stated that Lebert is:
“A 30-year member of the department and works in our detective division. He’s a very effective police officer but last night’s incident that’s on video, at least that portion of the video that I saw, is troubling to say the least.”
At every step, the driver complied with the cop’s orders, even though they were aggressive and frequently out-of-line. Other people who have been on the receiving end of police abuse who have “failed” to remain as totally calm have fared far worse. Some have been killed, only to have the public say, “if he had done xyz,” he wouldn’t have been shot.
Here’s the full transcript of the conversation between Lebert and Mike.
Lebert: “I’ll put a hole right through your f---ing head.”
Driver: “I didn’t know you were a cop.”
Lebert: “I’ll put a hole right through your head.”
Driver: “Okay, okay, okay, okay.”
Lebert: “I’m a f---ing Medford detective. And you went through that f---ing Rotary.”
Driver: “I didn’t see a sign. I didn’t see a sign --”
Lebert: “Give me your license.” … “Don’t worry, there will be a cruiser here in two seconds.”
Driver: “Sorry, I didn’t see that sign.”
Lebert: “You’re lucky I’m a f---ing cop. Cause I’d be beating the f---ing piss outta you right now.”
Lebert: “Gimme your license.”
Driver: “I just wanna let you know--”
Lebert: “Gimme your license!”
Driver: “I also wanna let you know--”
Lebert: “Gimme your license!”
Driver: “Okay, I just wanna let you know I also have a dash camera.”
(Lebert walks away from vehicle, then turns around and starts walking back toward it, shouting.)
Lebert: “So I’ll seize that. I’m gonna seize that camera when you almost hit that car head-on when you went through the rotary the wrong way.”
Driver: “I didn’t see the rotary. Yeah I—I messed up.”
Lebert: “I’m seizing your camera. Thanks a lot.”
Later on during the video, another exchange:
Driver: “I thought you had a gun, so I got scared.”
Lebert: “I didn’t show you the gun. I showed you my badge and ID.”
Driver: “All I see is you reaching through your pocket, and you’re coming at me aggressively. I’m gonna run. It’s scary.”
Lebert: “You almost hit a car head-on.”