Wiza releases statement on racial profiling claim

Metro Wire Staff

Mayor Mike Wiza has released a statement after he says his office investigated a claim of racial profiling against local law enforcement.

Deandre Patrick Pettiford was one of the multiple men stopped by Stevens Point police and Portage Co. deputies who reportedly matched the general description of a suspect being sought in an armed robbery on July 23. During the robbery, a man alleged he was robbed at gunpoint of $250.

In a Facebook post that has since gone viral, Pettiford alleges he was racially profiled and harassed by law enforcement, also claiming his rights were violated. Pettiford has not responded to Metro Wire requests for an interview.

According to the incident report, Pettiford’s appearance resembled the physical and clothing description relayed during the 911 call. The actual suspect in the robbery, 17-year-old Antonio Cruz of Stevens Point, was reported to be 5’8″ and 160 pounds with “medium skin tone” and dark hair, wearing a blue shirt and carrying a black backpack.

Pettiford was also 5’8″ and 160 pounds, with dark hair and skin, and wore similar clothing. He was stopped near the Shopko parking lot while riding his bicycle east on Main St. and questioned by a city police officer and two Portage Co. deputies.

He was respectful during questioning, the incident report said.

“Pettiford said that he understood and knew that we had a job to do,” the report reads in part. “[The officer] thanked him for his cooperation and he was sent on his way.”

Wiza’s statement follows:

“I’ve been in the process of putting things together since Monday morning. Several agencies and departments were involved and each had a piece of the bigger picture. The County Communication Center, Sheriff’s Office, Stevens Point Police Department, District Attorney, Police and Fire Commission and Deandre himself.

After getting as much information as I could from our end, I met with Dre to discuss the events that took place in the early morning hours of Monday, July 23rd.

He told me what happened, from his perspective, in his own words.

Dre had no way of knowing that an armed robbery had taken place right before he was stopped by the Portage County Deputy. He had no idea that most law enforcement officers were actively looking for a person with a gun who had a backpack and that everyone in the immediate area was being stopped and questioned. Three different people were stopped, and one of those was stopped twice by different officers.

I explained that the officers had no way of knowing if any one of the people stopped was the suspect, an accomplice, friend, relative, or had anything to do with a robbery that just occurred. Keep in mind this was about 1:30 in the morning on a Monday. The streets aren’t exactly teeming with people.

While there is no way that I can fully understand how Deandre felt during that stop, I think we both walked away with a better understanding of what transpired and why.

We have a lot of work to do as a society when it comes to things like this and we all need to play a part. It doesn’t help anyone’s cause by jumping to conclusions or making presumptions. Everyone has a unique perspective and there is always more to the story. I would hope we spend our energy seeking the truth because that will inevitably lead to the best solutions.

Finally, any sort of discrimination, hate or bias is wrong and there is absolutely no place for it in our community.”