Credit: Lake Wales Police Department
While deaths at the hands of police officers have fallen since the racial reckoning of last summer, there is still a long way to go. All it takes is a few bad apple police officers to erode trust between communities and law enforcement. Take, for example, a recent incident in Lake Wales, Fla. Two racist officers assaulted a Latino man named Chris Cordero before filing false charges against him.
According to local reports, two racist officers lied on their police report when they accused Chris Cordero of attacking them.
The story is truly shocking. According to Chris Cordero, 37, the entire incident with the racist officers began when he was driving home from Publix with medicine for his young son. Cordero became wary when he noticed a police cruiser was following him for a long time. So Cordero stopped to ask the police officer what was going on.
“I get out of the vehicle to ask him what’s going on because he’s been following me for a while,” Cordero told WFTS Tampa Bay. And here is where Cordero’s story and the police officer’s story differ.
Cordero told reporters that Officer Colt Black “requested that I go to the back of my car and put my hands on the trunk. Because he wants to search me to see if I have a weapon.”
It was then, Cordero says, that Officer Black “sucker punched” him on the back of the head.
“He sucker-punched me from the back, right here, cracked a piece of my tooth out. I landed on the ground,” Cordero said. Cordero says that it was then that a second officer, Officer Travis Worley, arrived. The two men began to assault him while he was on the ground, handcuffed.
“They both jumped on me and beat me up really bad,” Cordero said. Cordero also alleges that Officer Worley called him a “spic n—-r”, “a piece of sh-t” and told him to “go back to New York.”
The police report told a very different story. The cops alleged that “Cordero immediately exited the driver door and began to charge towards my patrol vehicle.”
Officer Colt Black said he “delivered an elbow strike to the left side of Cordero’s head” thinking Cordero was “reaching for a weapon.”
They charged Cordero with resisting arrest, assault on a law enforcement officer and making a death threat to a law enforcement officer. The charges could’ve landed Cordero in jail for years.
The footage clearly showed Cordero waiting by his car for around 30 seconds before Officer Black approached him and assaulted him. Cordero submitted the footage to the police. Officer Black claimed he wrote the false report because his “perception was altered due to the high stress of the incident.”
The State’s Attorney’s Office, immediately dropped the charges against Cordero. The Lake Wells attorney revealed that this wasn’t the first time members of the community complained about these particular officers.
“These officers who have issues with power and control target people who they know won’t be believed,” she said.
Since the footage came to light, the racist officers have been reprimanded. Officer Colt Black resigned. Officer Travis Worley is on administrative leave.
The two racist officers have a history of complaints against them. Members of the community have accused them of blatant racism and excessive force.
A Black female officer claimed Officer Worley used a racial slur while on a call–a claim he denied. He later tried to have the woman fired, saying “the longer she is allowed to continue working here, the more of a chance she will have to harm good officers and their families.”
Another complaint was filed by a local high school principal, who heard Officer Worley use a racial slur in front of students. “Quite simply,” the principal wrote, “he is not the same caliber as the other officers I know are–not even close.”
Despite the multiple complaints and investigations surrounding him, the police department always cleared Officer Worley of wrongdoing. He was even named “Officer of the Year” in 2019.
Chris Cordero hopes this incident with the racist officers prompts the city to make body cameras mandatory on police officers.
“How many more innocent people are sitting in jail?” he asked WFTS News. “How many people in the community are scared to come forward about these officers?”
“All police are not trying to intimidate people. That’s not the case,” said Lake Wales City Commissioner Terrye Howell. “But when you have one or two bad apples, then they’re spilling that bad apple part to other officers, then that bunch starts growing.”
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