Police have released body cam video of officers joking with three black people, including Bob Marley’s granddaughter, who say they plan to sue over what they say was an excessive response to a racially motivated 911 call.
The footage was released by the Rialto Police Department in California on Tuesday showing a laid-back and, at times, light-hearted interaction between the officers and the group they had pulled over.
The group, including Marley’s granddaughter Donisha Prendergast, had been checking out of their Airbnb rental with luggage when a neighbor called police April 30 reporting a possible burglary.
Body cam footage shows Prendergast and her two friends later disagreeing with police over whether the 911 call, which was made by an older white woman, was racially motivated.
Footage shared on Instagram by Prendergast’s friend Kells Fyffe-Marshall showed a portion of the interaction with police and she wrote that they had been ‘surrounded’ by seven police cars and told to put their hands in the air.
‘They locked down the neighborhood and had us standing in the street. Why?’ she wrote alongside the footage. ‘A neighbor across the street saw three black people packing luggage into their car and assumed we were stealing from the house.’
The video quickly spread on social media.
Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling shared the full body cam video of the interaction at a news conference, saying the department has been unfairly accused of racism and has been handling dozens of calls for burglaries in the area.
‘The videos speak for themselves,’ he said. ‘Our officers handled the situation with professionalism, dignity and respect.’
The videos show Officer Nick Besheer repeatedly joking with the women and reacting with excitement that one of them was Marley’s granddaughter and that they were in town from Canada where he was actually born.
Fyffe-Marshall is captured on the body cam commending officers at one point.
‘The police in Cali, they’re not Toronto police and I respect that,’ she said. ‘If you were Toronto police we’d all be on the floor, hands up and we wouldn’t even have the chance to be like, “Guys, it’s an Airbnb.
The women do say that they feel the 911 caller was motivated by race.
When one officer radios in a ‘code four,’ Fyffe-Marshall says it’s actually a ‘code black’. Code four means no further assistance needed.
Later, Marley’s granddaughter expresses frustration that the matter isn’t being cleared up faster and said they wouldn’t have been reported if they were white.
The women say they were held for 45 minutes while police investigated.
Officer Besheer is filmed asking her what race had to do with it. Their conversation ends with the officer walking away, saying: ‘Stop pulling it, guys.’
Both Fyffe-Marshall and Prendergast didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Their attorney, Jasmine Rand, said that she put Rialto Police ‘on notice of the potential for litigation.’
Marie Rodriguez, the owner of the Airbnb the group was renting, defended her neighbor’s call to 911 and the police response.