When a citizen gets sworn in as a police officer, they dedicate themselves to enforcing the law, as well as protecting and serving their communities. We’d like to believe that in general, that’s exactly what police officers do after putting on the badge. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
One summer day in Chicago offers an example of one police officer not doing the job he signed up for. And with a little help from a smart phone, followed by an immediate public outcry for something to be done, one woman was able to bring justice to an otherwise incompetent public servant, and the man who ruined her birthday.
In early June 2018, a Chicago woman was planning her upcoming birthday. She decided to celebrate the day by hosting a small barbeque with friends and family at the Caldwell Woods forest preserve in Chicago. The preserve is known for its trails, recreational areas, nature centers and events — none of which she would fully appreciate that day.
The woman paid for a special permit to ensure that on the day of her birthday party a picnic and barbeque area were available to her friends and family. When the day of the party finally came on June 14, 2018, she and a family member arrived early to start setting up. Everything looked like it was going to be fine, for a short while at least.
A Damper On The Festivities
While setting up for her 24th birthday party, the woman was excited about the fun and relaxing day that she had planned. Sadly, however, a stranger who was at the preserve that afternoon made it his mission to ruin her birthday. He noticed the party setup and saw something he didn’t like. Not only that, he felt for some reason he had no other choice but to do something about it.
A Seemingly Harmless Question
As the young woman set up a picnic table before other friends and family members arrived, the complete stranger walked over to her and asked her a random question about the shirt she was wearing that afternoon. The woman’s right to express herself freely mustn’t have crossed the man’s mind, or maybe he just felt like starting trouble. Either way, his intentions weren’t to leave this family alone to enjoy their time at the preserve.
According to the woman, Mia Irizarry, the man appeared to be intoxicated when he asked her if the shirt she was wearing featured the Texas’ state flag. That state flag features a blue vertical section to the left, with a white star in the section’s center. The right side is evenly divided horizontally by a white section (top) and a red section (bottom). The Texas’ flag is both unique and highly recognizable. (This apparently drunken man was either acting willfully ignorant or didn’t pay attention in school.) At first, Mia didn’t think anything about the random question and replied that it was actually the Puerto Rican flag on her shirt, as noted by the words “Puerto Rico” across the front.
The Harassment Begins
“You should not be wearing that in the United States of America,” said the man, slurring his speech as he wobbled for balance. Then the man, who has been identified as 62-year-old Timothy Trybus, wrongly jumped to the ridiculous conclusion that this person wasn’t — couldn’t have been — a citizen of the country, and started questioning if she was a legal resident of the United States.
A Legal Citizen
“Are you a citizen? Are you a United States citizen?” Trybus repeatedly asks Mia, inching closer as he spoke. She tried explaining that as a Puerto Rican citizen, she automatically has citizenship in the United States, since it is an unincorporated territory of the country. At this point the encounter already dampened the mood of the day, but it would only go down hill from there.
Wasting Her Breath
“Yes, I am,” Mia said calmly, glancing about to see if anyone noticed the encounter. “Then you should not be wearing that,” Trybus replied. “You should be wearing [the] United States of America Flag.” At that point, seeing that nothing would satiate the man’s desire to ruin her day, it became obvious to Mia that the man couldn’t be reasoned with and wouldn’t leave her alone.
The Aggression Increases
“You’re not going to change us, you know that,” Trybus shouted, followed by an awkward pause. And as he became increasingly aggressive, stumbling closer, raising his voice, Mia was afraid that the uncomfortable confrontation would turn physical. But before it escalated to that point, Mia decided to call the police.
Calling For Help
She hoped that if she reported the harassment, an officer could help her defuse the situation. As Mia waited for one to arrive, she took her phone out and started recording what was happening as proof so Trybus couldn’t deny it later on — a smart choice. Among the many technological advances of the cellular telephone, acting as a recording device is perhaps the most important function when it comes to providing proof of an event.
Thankfully, it was only a few minutes until an officer from the police department of the Forest Preserves of Cook County arrived. As Mia tried to explain the situation to Officer Patrick Connor, Trybus continued the harassment and repeatedly intruded in her personal space.
A First-Hand Witness
“You should not be wearing that in the United States of America,” Trybus shouted in front of the officer. Sadly, Officer Connor did nothing to stop the confrontation or encourage Trybus to leave Mia, who had paid for a permit to use the space in peace, alone.
A Live Stream
“I am renting this area and he’s harassing me about the shirt that I’m wearing,” Mia said. “Officer, I feel entirely uncomfortable, can you remove … please officer,” Mia asked the officer as calmly as she could while continuing to film the interaction and stream it directly to Facebook Live.
Refusing To Protect And Serve
“Officer, I’m renting, I paid for a permit for this area,” Mia said. “I do not feel comfortable with him here, is there anything you can do?” No matter how much Mia pleaded, however, Connor just stood there refusing to intervene as Trybus continued harassing her.
Encouraging The Aggression
Rather than help Mia, Connor turned his back and let the harassment continue. “As you can see the police are not even — he’s not even grabbing him. Like this guy is just walking up to me. He basically got in my face, damn near almost touched me,” Mia said to the camera as she recorded.
The Incident Goes Viral
Ultimately, a female officer arrived at the scene and finally got the situation under control. “You don’t come here harassing people,” the officer told Trybus. “People have just as much right to be here as you, and when you’re drunk, you don’t belong here.” While the female officer helped protect Mia, the footage of her colleague’s response was already uploaded to Facebook and quickly went viral around the country.
An Investigation Begins
”After the incident, we immediately launched an investigation pursuant to our personnel policies into the response of our officer,” the park said in an issued statement after the public expressed their outrage. “The investigation is ongoing and the officer involved has been assigned to desk duty pending the outcome. The intoxicated individual involved in the incident was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct.”
In the wake of the controversy, Officer Connor avoided punishment by resigning from the department before the investigation into the incident was completed. “I am severely disappointed I will never get to hear from this man, this officer, as to why my safety, no why my life, had so little value for him,” Mia said. “I want the ex-officer to really be held accountable, whatever that looks like. I can honestly say that I feared for my safety…”
Work Isn’t Done
“I am sincerely sorry this happened,” General Superintendent Arnold Randall said. “I’ve seen the video, and I am outraged that this would happen anywhere, but especially sad it happened in our Forest Preserves. Clearly, our work isn’t done … Certain aspects of the investigation are continuing, as it relates to the State’s Attorney’s investigation of potential criminal charges against Mr. Trybus. And, we are continuing our internal review because we know that we can learn from this incident.” So far, Trybus has also been charged with two felony hate crime charges and was ordered to undergo an alcohol assessment.
“We are deeply committed to inclusivity and make every effort to infuse our work with that commitment. But we know there’s always room for improvement and we want to use this incident as an opportunity to grow stronger,” Randall added. “It was extremely surreal to think that someone whose job is to protect and serve could just completely walk away,” said Mia, who is still frustrated, but glad that Connor won’t be able to treat anyone else the way he treated her.