Mass. lieutenant placed on leave after accusing woman of stealing mail from her own home

A video posted to Twitter shows the white off-duty lieutenant parked in the driveway of the woman, who is a racial minority, after following her

Jackson Cote, Springfield, Mass.

ANDOVER, Mass. — An Andover firefighter has been placed on leave after following a woman in his vehicle and accusing her of theft.

Video of the incident made the rounds after it was uploaded to Twitter. The 15-second clip shows a man in a black SUV parked in a private driveway as two women question why he is there. One of the women, Gabby Batista, had apparently been getting her mail when the man tailed her in his car.

“I just wanted to make sure someone wasn’t stealing something,” says the man in the video, which has garnered hundreds of likes and retweets since Batista posted it to Twitter on Tuesday.

Kaeyla Arreaga, Batista’s friend, told WHDH the two woman had stopped at Batista’s home to check her mail when they noticed that a man, later identified as an off-duty Andover fire lieutenant, was watching them.

The two women said they drove away but were followed by the lieutenant, who was traveling in his personal vehicle, according to WHDH.

They then pulled over, got out of the car and asked the man, “Sir, can I help you?," Batista said. The man responded by accusing her of stealing mail from the house, Batista told the news outlet.

She then called her sister to come outside, at which point, Batista started recording the incident on her cell phone, she told WHDH.

“That’s none of your f------ business,” Batista’s sister can be heard saying in the video after the man tells Batista he suspected mail theft.

The Andover woman told WHDH she feels the color of her skin played a role in why the man followed her.

“I feel like if it wasn’t for the color of my skin, he wouldn’t have stopped or questioned anything,” she told WHDH. Batista added that she “was even more upset, because this is minor compared to other things that are going on."

The lieutenant has since been placed on indefinite paid administrative leave pending an investigation, according to a statement from Andover Town Manager Andrew P. Flanagan and Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mansfield.

Officials have yet to release the lieutenant’s name, per the advice of the town’s counsel.

Flanagan called the situation “extremely concerning," noting the incident demands a “full accounting of the facts.”

“Due to the sensitive nature of the incident, the town of Andover has consulted with its labor counsel, and the town has retained the services of an independent investigator to investigate the facts and conduct a holistic review of the matter,” the town manager’s statement said.


©2020, Springfield, Mass.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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