A police officer in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania is under investigation following a video filmed at a restaurant, which went viral on Twitter. The video shows Officer William Moore confronting a man after receiving a report about a Black male smoking marijuana.
Moore, 53, was removed from the schedule pending an investigation into the incident, Mayor Barb Turiak told TribLive. He is being paid while on leave, the newspaper reported. The incident occurred at G&G Restaurant in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania at about 8 a.m. Saturday, April 17, 2021. Moore was on leave by the following Monday, the newspaper reported. You can watch the video of the incident here or later in this post.
Moore faced charges in 2017 for allegedly assaulting a teenage boy, court documents indicate. The most serious charges were dismissed, and he paid a fine for a summary count of harassment.
1. Video Claims to Show Racial Profiling After Police Were Called for a Report of a Black Male Smoking Marijuana
Vandergrift police Chief Joe Caporali told TribLive Moore responded to the restaurant for a report of a Black male smoking marijuana outside the restaurant. Caporali did not tell the newspaper who called 911. Moore told another officer on the video, “I already know who called.”
After the call, Moore approached Marcus Townsend, 20, of Vandergrift, and Townsend began filming.
“You came straight to the Black dude sitting at the table,” Townsend said on one clip.
“Because I got called for you,” Moore responded.
“For me?” Townsend asks.
“Yeah, because you were the one smoking weed,” Moore replied.
Townsend denied smoking marijuana outside the restaurant.
One two minute, twenty second video shows Officer William Moore confronting Townsend. The video had more than 600,000 views April 25. On the video, Moore tells the man he was there because he was called there for him, and asks if he has any identification.
“No, I don’t have to give you ID,” the man replies.
“You do have to,” Moore responds.
When the man refuses to give him identification, Moore calls for backup. The man asks Moore to call his superior officer, to which Moore responds that he is a superior officer.
“My badge number is 4. Do you understand that?” Moore says.
Moore asks the man for identification several more times before telling him to get up and go outside. Moore also says several times he was called for the man.
“That’s not right, sir, and it’s all being recorded,” the man says.
The man gives him identification, and the man says he is being racially profiled.
“Oh yeah, racial profiling,” Moore responds sarcastically.
Moore says on the radio that the man is claiming he is being racially profiled.
“Everybody that knows me knows that I don’t care whether you’re white, brown or tan,” he says.
2. Officials Released Little Information on the Investigation or the Incident
Officials released limited information on the investigation into Moore or on the incident which spurred the investigation. They cited an ongoing investigation in response to questions seeking details.
“It’s an ongoing investigation, and I can’t comment further,” Turiak told TribLive.
Vandergrift Borough Council will decide whether Moore is permitted to return to work following an internal investigation into the incident, the newspaper reported.
“These allegations are being taken seriously by borough officials,” Caporali told the newspaper.
He did not give a timeframe for when the investigation would be completed.
3. Moore Was Accused of Assaulting & Threatening a 14-Year-Old Boy in 2017
This is not the first time Moore has been placed on paid leave. In 2017, he was accused of assaulting and threatening a 14-year-old boy. His online court records show he pleaded guilty to a summary count of harassment and paid a fine in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.
His docket sheet shows Moore was initially charged in that case with endangering the welfare of children, three counts of simple assault and three counts of harassment. The simple assault counts were misdemeanors, along with two of the counts of harassment. All of the misdemeanors were dropped at his preliminary hearing, and his summary count of harassment was held for court.
Moore was charged by the Gilpin Township Police Department, and the case was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office. Moore hired a private attorney to defend him.
TribLive reported the charges stemmed from a report from the Armstrong County Children and Youth Services office, which said the boy was seen at school with a scratch on his arm. When asked by school employees how he got the injury, he said it was from an altercation with Moore. The report was transferred to the Gilpin police department, which filed the charges.
The incident was caught on video, TribLive reported at the time the charges were filed. The video showed Moore grabbing the boy by his arm and placing his hand over the boy’s mouth, according to court documents summarized by the newspaper. A bystander pulled Moore’s hand from the boy’s face, court documents said.
Moore was also accused of assaulting the boy a second time in the same case. Court documents alleged he placed his forearm against the boy’s throat and covered the boy’s mouth with his hand. He reportedly appeared intoxicated and threatened to have the boy committed to a mental institution, court documents said.
4. Moore Is 53 & Has Worked for the Vandergrift Police Department for More Than 20 Years
Moore has worked for the Vandergrift Police Department for more than 20 years, TribLive reported.
Townsend frequents the restaurant where the incident occurred. He told WTAE he went there with his girlfriend and service dog, Diamond. Townsend told the news station Moore initially asked for papers for the service dog. While Townsend said they do not need to carry papers, he asked his girlfriend to take the dog and leave to diffuse the situation. After that, he said Moore asked him about smoking marijuana, which he denied.
“No hate towards cops. No nothing like that,” he told the news station. “I just want people to realize that situations like this are going to happen at the end of the day, this whole Black Lives Matter thing, it’s a real thing and I understand stuff like that but we just gotta filter out the bad cops and that’s their job and everybody else’s job.”
5. The Restaurant Said in a Statement it Was Saddened by the Incident & Invited Townsend to Come Back to Eat
The restaurant where the incident occurred, G&G Restaurant, posted on Facebook they were saddened by what happened and that they want everyone to feel comfortable there.
Townsend told WTAE they invited him to come back to eat later that day.
“They asked me the same question, how you feel about it. That’s normal life, you know. And it’s sad at the end of the day you know. I just go about my day knowing that if we run into a cop you might get into a situation like that,” he said.
The post said:
The entire day we have been deeply saddened by what occurred today. The situation was inexcusable and we completely condemn any type of demeaning behavior towards any individual who walks through our doors. Our entire goal is for every person visiting our restaurant to be able to enjoy their entire experience and for us to serve our community. If I can leave with anything, I would like to tell every single one of our friends and customers to always keep in the back of their mind to always be kind and to always strive to morally be the best that you can be.