CCTV CAPTURED the moment a man from Southern California was given the fright of his life when he bought a pack of mints at a petrol station and an off-duty police officer pulled a gun on him.
Jose Arreola was on his way to a club on March 16 when he pulled into a Chevron filling station in Orange County to withdraw $60 (£44) from the cash machine, before heading to the counter to buy a pack of Mentos for his wife, who was waiting in the car.
He paid for the mints with a $20 bill and, while waiting for his change, reached over the counter and grabbed his Mentos, then slipped them into his left jacket pocket.
Unfortunately for Arreola, an off-duty cop had walked into the petrol station and witnessed him take the mints, but had not seen any cash exchanged, and so assumed the 49-year-old was stealing. The unnamed officer’s instant reaction was to reach for his handgun and confront Arreola.
He told reporters: “I felt this fear and thought of my wife. My wife might become a widow tonight.”
The video shows Arreola reaching for a roll of Mentos and asking, “How much are these?” The cashier says, “$1.19,” and Arreola duly pays.
But after grabbing the mints he hears the man behind in the queue shout, “Hey, put that back.” As Arreola turns around he sees the man reach into his sweatshirt pocket and pull out a pistol. The man repeats his demand but only then clarifies that he is a police officer.
“I felt this fear and thought … my wife might become a widow tonight.”
The terrifying situation was resolved within 35 seconds, and the officer put away his gun and apologised, but Arreola’s faith in cops was seriously dented. He told The Orange County Register: “You can’t help but look at all these Facebook videos of cops doing bad things. The way he cocked his gun, I thought he was going to shoot me if I did any wrong move.”
Corey S. Sianez, the Buena Park police chief, said that he was troubled by the officer’s actions, and the investigation will be thorough. “I want you to know that after I watched the video I found it to be disturbing, as I’m sure it was to you,” he said on Facebook.
Michael Scott, a former police officer who teaches criminal justice at Arizona State University, told the New York Times: “I can sympathise with a young officer’s instincts to want to intervene off duty in what he perceives to be a crime. But good judgement, combined with restrictive policies and training in those policies, are needed precisely to prevent the problems depicted in this incident.”
Thankfully, most Brits don’t have to fear a life-or-death situation when buying sweets at a petrol station, as most police — and, indeed, citizens — don’t carry firearms, but the story has reignited tensions in America, where 370 people have been shot and killed by officers so far this year, according to a database compiled by the Washington Post. The data show that the slain are typically armed.
Last month video emerged of a police officer shooting a robbery suspect through the windscreen of his car. The man later died of his injuries.
WARNING: Video contains scenes of a distressing nature.
Credit: Louisville Metro Police Department via Storyful