A video of an officer tripping kids has one Texas policeman sitting at home today on leave. Perhaps officer George Bermudez, a nine-year veteran of the Georgetown, Texas police force, has some time on his hands to review the viral video and rethink his crowd control techniques. Video of a girl’s soccer game shows Bermudez tripping and shoving students as they rushed the field last weekend.
ABC News on April 22 says that the uniformed officer is now on paid administrative leave. Cell phone video shows exuberant high school students running out onto the soccer field after the championship win. The cop is seen tripping students as they rush by and then later shoving other students. The Georgetown police department called Bermudez’s actions “inappropriate,” and is investigating the incident.
In the game, the Vandegrift High School girls soccer team beat Wiley High in the 4A state championships. School administrators tried to warn students ahead of time to remain in their seats, but after the winning goal was scored, a number of Vandegrift students eagerly ran out, despite an announcer urging otherwise.
One of those students was Gray Goolsby, says KEN5.com out of San Antonio. “We get in the dog pile and it's just crazy you know,” said Goolsby, who joined the others after the celebratory goal. Goolsby said the officer grabbed him and spun him around. “I felt this hand grab my shoulder and just pull me out of the dog pile and he says ‘Get back to the stands!’” Gray recounted.
Goolsby says he understand that Bermudez was just trying doing his job, although he concedes that other students, especially those who were blatantly tripped, may feel differently. “I hope he doesn't lose his job over this because we were just trying to have fun and he's just trying to do his job and hopefully everything works out,” added Goolsby.
Georgetown Police Chief Wayne Nero issued a lengthy statement Monday evening, which reads, in part:
As would be appropriate given the circumstances, I have fielded a number of phone calls and emails regarding the recent actions of Officer Bermudez as depicted in the circulating videos. After personally watching the videos, the actions of my officer are very concerning to me as well. As the Chief of Police, it is my responsibility to ensure that this matter is investigated objectively, thoroughly, and in a timely manner without bias. We are doing just that. I want to reassure the public that it is not the position of the Georgetown Police Department to neither condone nor tolerate misconduct of any type.
Nero said the matter has been forwarded to the department’s Professional Standards Division for further investigation and that “consistent with allegations of similar nature, Officer Bermudez has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.” Nero also said that many have been calling for the immediate termination of the officer, but asks for the “public’s patience so that we can ensure that a thorough and fair investigation be conducted and the appropriate accountability take place.”
The game was the first time any soccer program from the Austin area has won the state championship. However, the strange actions of this officer are eclipsing the gameplay and putting the focus on what happened afterwards. Many parents are outraged after witnessing the video.
"These kids were excited. They wanted to celebrate," said parent Karen Morse, whose daughter is a junior on the team. "It was so exciting. In fact, it was so exciting, I jumped up and almost blacked out and hit the woman in front of me! All the kids are jumping over, friends, boyfriends, everybody’s just running. Then I see this police officer just sticking out his leg," she said.
"They just wanted to, you know, go and celebrate with the girls basically and have a good time," said sophomore student Rohan Gupta. "We’re just kids running on to a field to celebrate our team and it was kind of too much. It was kind of a cheap shot going for his legs."
Last year, the Georgetown police department named Bermudez "Officer of the Year."