Homestead Police Chief Jeff Desimone has been suspended for three days without pay after being caught in a viral video harassing a pregnant Black woman.
According to NBC’s WPXI, the local borough council suspended Desimone at a meeting on Thursday. Several Black Homestead residents allegedly expressed to the council that this was not the first time the police chief has exhibited this behavior, many calling for him to resign.
The video shows Desimone in plain clothes and an unmarked car shouting at Kamahlai Stewart in a Giant Eagle pharmacy drive-thru last week. WPXI reports that Stewart was picking up medication for her child, who was in the video coughing in the backseat. The chief demanded that she leaves so he can get his medication sooner. He then turned on his vehicle’s police lights.
According to Newsweek, Stewart pulled out her camera when she began to feel unsafe. Before she began recording, Desimone had approached her car and started cursing at her. He then called for police backup.
Desimone insisted that the confrontation has been unjustly blown out of proportion, describing it as a “little dispute” and suggesting that it was reasonable to use his position as chief of police to demand that Stewart pull over to let him jump the line.
At Thursday’s council meeting, multiple Black residents said that the chief had exhibited inappropriate behavior in the past and argued in favor of him being fired rather than given a short suspension. One woman called the suspension a “disgrace,” describing it as a “vacation” rather than a punishment. Homestead Mayor Betty Esper defended Desimone.
“Everybody’s got a different disposition,” Esper told WPXI. “He’s [been] here 20-some years. I mean, come on, he’s never abused anybody. There’s two sides to every story, also.”
Stewart reportedly called the chief’s actions an “abuse of authority.” In the video, another officer was standing next to her car window as Desimone shouted at a pharmacy worker about her prescription.
“What were you thinking to put myself, my unborn child and my 5-year-old ill son in danger like this?” Stewart said, according to Newsweek, “I was shocked, appalled. I can’t believe you, of all people—you’re the chief of police—for you to turn on your lights and try to intimidate me was totally an abuse of power.”
Desimone did not attend the meeting on Thursday, telling WPXI, that he was on vacation.