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Wood River Police have issued a statement regarding an incident that took place on March 15 at the Walmart store between an officer and two men, who have since filed a complaint against the department. The interaction between the men and the officer has received local and international attention, especially on social media, where some have criticized the actions of the officer because the two men he confronted were black.
According to the statement, on March 15 the officer approached the two who were wearing surgical masks prior to them entering the Walmart store because he believed they were acting suspiciously. The statement from the police chief said the officer incorrectly informed the individuals that the Wood River City Ordinance prohibited the wearing of masks and requested to see their identification. The individuals refused and indicated they were leaving the store but one of the men began taking video with his cell phone. The officer stayed with the men for a time before they left the store. The man then shared the video of the incident online, which got attention in the local broadcast and print media but has taken off again in recent days after gaining more national and international attention. The statement from the police chief was released last night on Facebook and said the department is conducting an internal investigation and has also reached out the Alton NAACP for assistance. The findings will then be turned over to the FBI for review.
You can read the full statement by the Wood River Police Chief below:
PRESS RELEASE (from WRPD Chief Brad Wells)
April 7, 2020 ??
On March 15, 2020, an officer with the Wood River Police Department approached two individuals wearing surgical masks prior to them entering the Walmart store. The officer believed the two individuals to be acting suspiciously. The officer incorrectly informed the individuals that the Wood River City Ordinance prohibited the wearing of masks and requested their identification. The individuals refused and indicated they were leaving the store. The officer did not further pursue their identity and the individuals left the store of their own volition. Subsequently, the two individuals have filed a formal complaint with the Wood River Police Department.
The complaint is currently being investigated internally. In addition, I have contacted Mr. Andy Hightower, President of the Alton Branch of the NAACP, to assist with the investigation and will request a review of the incident by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I) when the investigation is completed.
As Chief of Police, I want to publicly state the officer incorrectly informed the individuals that the Wood River City Ordinance prohibited the wearing of masks. This statement was incorrect and should not have been made. The city does not have such an ordinance prohibiting the wearing of a mask. In fact, I support the wearing of a nonsurgical mask or face covering when in public during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
While there continues to be requests for comments regarding this matter, there will be no further statements as this is an ongoing investigation. I want to reassure all citizens of the Wood River Community and visitors to our city that I subscribe to the principles of integrity, empathy, respect, and fairness. Moreover I expect the same of our police officers and together, we will continue to work with our community to solve problems.