A Pennsylvania police chief was suspended for three days without pay following a recorded incident this month in which he yelled at a Black woman at a drive-thru pharmacy.
Homestead, Pennsylvania, residents in the Pittsburgh suburb agreed at a city meeting on Thursday, Aug. 19, with the city’s decision to suspend Chief Jeff DeSimone, with some claiming that he’d exhibited poor conduct in the past. Others even called for him to resign.
Earlier this month, Kamahlai Stewart was waiting at the Giant Eagle pharmacy drive-thru window to pick up her son’s medication. The sick 5-year-old can be heard coughing in the background of the video.
Stewart started recording when she began feeling uncomfortable after DeSimone, in plainclothes at the time and in an unmarked vehicle, began to express his frustration while waiting in the pharmacy drive-thru window. She said the line was moving slow that day and that DeSimone turned his police lights on and attempted to intimidate her.
“It was totally an abuse of power,” Stewart told WPXI. “What were you thinking to put myself, my unborn child and my 5-year-old ill son in danger like this?”
When DeSimone approached Stewart’s car and told her to move so that he could move to, she refused, the chief called police for backup.
Other officers showed up and DeSimone could be seen in the background yelling into the pharmacy window that Stewart’s prescriptions were not ready. An employee at the window had reportedly told Stewart her prescription would take a few more minutes although it took longer so she continued to wait at the window.
“He originally turned his lights on and got out of the car the first time and cursed me out. And I was like, ‘oh no I don’t feel safe now so I need to get my phone out and record this guy because I don’t know what he’s capable of or what he’s going to do,'” Stewart told WTAE.
She said the backup officers who arrived were good officers who helped deescalate the situation.
“The police, the men that pulled up, they were good officers and they handed it in such a smooth way,” Stewart said.
Stewart also expressed that suspending DeSimone was a good step but said he needed to be removed.
Homestead Mayor Betty Esper defended DeSimone and disagreed with his suspension.
“Everybody has a different disposition,” she said. “He’s been here 20-some years. I mean come on, he’s never abused anybody.”
DeSimone insisted what happened that day has been blown out of proportion and said it was just a “little dispute,” that followed his request to have Stewart move out of the way so he could get his prescription.
He told WPXI he was on vacation on Thursday, the day of the council meeting, and wouldn’t be able to discuss calls for his resignation.
Stewart says she has an attorney looking into the video.