A Colorado police department where officers were fired after re-enacting the chokehold death of a young Black man is under scrutiny again after video emerged of an officer pulling a gun on a doctor trying to park at a refugee center he operates.
Police body camera video released by Dr. P.J. Parmar's lawyer as well as Parmar’s own cellphone video show a white Aurora police officer identified as J. Henderson pointing a gun at Parmar, who is Indian American, on March 1 after Parmar honked at the officer's police car parked in his way.
In the video, the officer walks to Parmar's car, says “Let me see your (expletive) hands. What are you doing?” and orders him to stay in the car. Parmar is heard explaining that he owns the property and telling the officer to leave. Parmar then gets out, walks around to a door on one side of the building, punches in a security code and goes inside.
The video shows the officer looking bewildered after Parmar leaves his car. After other officers arrive to help, the officer is heard saying that he could ticket Parmar for careless driving since he pulled into the parking area the wrong way.
Aurora police have declined to comment on the incident because it is the subject of an internal investigation. The probe is being conducted as the department's arrest and subsequent death of Elijah McClain is being reviewed by the state attorney general at the request of Gov. Jared Polis. Federal authorities are also considering whether to launch a civil rights investigation into his death.
Parmar’s lawyer, David Lane, last week sent a letter to the police department urging them to sit down and talk about what happened by Friday or face a federal lawsuit.
Parmar, the son of Indian immigrants and who also has Canadian citizenship, said he was more frustrated and annoyed with the officer's actions than afraid. Parmar, who treats refugees at a medical clinic in his center, believes his race affected how he was treated and fears he would have been treated worse if his skin was darker.
Parmar said he was too embarrassed to share his video at the time, but posted a written description of what happened on Facebook soon afterward. In May, he decided to put the video on social media.
Pamar said his state representative, Dominique Jackson, read his written description and brought it to the attention of interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who opened an investigation into the incident.
Parmar first shared the video online before national protests over racial injustice erupted following the May 25 death of George Floyd. He said the video did not get much of a reaction at first, but has seen more since the increased scrutiny of police abuse of power.
Some people post comments saying he should have been more docile, Parmar said. But, he thinks that would have only emboldened the officer to act more forcefully against him.
“Oppressors can only oppress when they have an audience, a victim, and I wasn't going to be his audience that night,” he said.