There is a lot of disagreement about the manner in which police in McKinney, Texas, responded to a pool party last Friday that was attended largely by black teenagers. As residents condemned the actions of Officer Eric Casebolt – he was captured on a seven-minute video shoving the unarmed teens and drawing his weapon – they also rejected claims that Casebolt’s and the other officers’ responses were racially motivated.
Maurice Gray, an African-American community member whose son attended the pool party, told NBC News that despite widespread claims in the media that McKinney has a larger racial problem, the opportunity and diversity of the area was why he moved his family there from St. Louis, Missouri.
"It wasn't a black or white thing," Gray said of the police response to the party, which was prompted by reports of attendees and guests fighting at the Craig Ranch North Community Pool. "[Police were] trying to take the teenagers to a different level, to calm them down. McKinney is a safe place. Very diverse."
Gray’s son, 16-year-old Jordan Gray, however, provided a different narrative, telling NBC that the party attendees would have been treated differently if they were mostly white teenagers. "This isn't the first time people have seen blacks being put on the ground, being abused, being pushed into a situation where a cop has pulled a gun on them," he said.
McKinney, located northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, has a population of more than 148,000. It is nearly 77 percent white and 11 percent black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Craig Ranch, an upscale residential subdivision in McKinney, is predominantly white but is more racially integrated than other areas of the city, according to residents.
Hundreds protested Monday in McKinney, calling for an end to police brutality. The protests mirrored the vein of anti-police protests that have been seen around the country in the past year. A now-viral video shows some McKinney officers chasing, handcuffing and using vulgar language against black teens, including some who had not participated in the disturbance.
Claims of racism were quickly levied by several teenagers who were at the gathering, which was reportedly an end-of-the-school-year celebration. Teens said some of the white pool patrons questioned if the black teens had permission to be there. Some of the white adults reportedly told the black teens to go back to their “Section 8 [public] housing” developments. As confrontations turned physical, witnesses called the police.
Benet Embry, an African-American father of two party attendees, blasted Casebolt's behavior but said he didn’t believe the overall police response was racially motivated. "I want to tell people outside this community that this is not Baltimore, this is not Ferguson, it's nothing like that," Embry told NBC News. "My neighbors are good neighbors. We're not racist."
Casebolt has been suspended from duty, pending an investigation of the incident, officials said on Sunday. But McKinney's police union also rejected the claims of racism at the community pool.
"The McKinney FOP assures that this was not a racially motivated incident and can say without a shadow of doubt that all members of the McKinney FOP and McKinney PD do not conduct racially biased policing," the McKinney Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement released Monday. “The McKinney FOP does not condone professional officers cursing at juveniles or any citizen during routine calls for service."