RENO, Nev. (AP) — A university police officer in Nevada joked about shooting a graduate student and former football player during a peaceful traffic stop, leading the department to place him on paid leave during an investigation.
The University of Nevada, Reno, released video captured by an officer's body camera late Wednesday after a complaint from the black student, later identified as former defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds.
Two white officers pulled over the car he was riding in with several other students. One officer says, "I'm glad you're not fighting, you're too big," and everyone laughs. The other officer, who is now on leave, then says, "Right, I'm like, I'm just going to shoot him if this goes sideways." The group stops laughing.
The interaction appeared to be non-confrontational and no references to race are heard on the video. The officers' banter included expletives, but no weapons were drawn or threats issued.
It comes amid heightened racial tensions in the U.S. after a deadly white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, and criticism over police shootings of black people, including recent protests in St. Louis that sometimes turned violent after a white former police officer was acquitted of killing a black man.
In Nevada, university Police Chief Adam Garcia praised McReynolds for coming forward, calling the words used during Sunday's traffic stop "disturbing, offensive and unacceptable."
He said in a statement that the impact of the comments was further compounded by what he described as "a time of heightened fear and anxiety throughout the country and on campus."
The university was recently in the spotlight when a photograph of one of its students became the defining image of the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville.
The police chief said he and university President Marc Johnson have personally apologized to McReynolds. The school released the video "in an effort to be both open and transparent," Garcia said.
Campus police and the school's Title IX Office are investigating and will move quickly to determine "our most appropriate action," Garcia said.
School spokeswoman Kerri Garcia said Thursday that the officer is on paid administrative leave.
In the traffic stop, the officers' only order to the students was for the driver stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated to produce a license. She later was allowed to leave with some of the passengers.
After the students left the area, one officer can be heard explaining that McReynolds was recruited by UCLA out of high school and last played football at Nevada in 2015.
His father, Kevin McReynolds Sr., said he didn't believe his son when he first told him about the incident.
"No police officer is that idiotic," the father told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "And then I saw the video."