Wearing a campaign T-shirt bearing his own name, Roosevelt McClary was walking down Northwest 46th Avenue in Lauderdale Lakes, knocking on doors and handing out campaign literature when Broward Sheriff’s deputies driving unmarked cars paid him an unexpected visit.
The Lauderdale Lakes City Commission candidate was told to sit down and show his identification.
And then the police helicopter came.
The 10-minute encounter — sparked Wednesday when McClary set off an alarm at a house where no one was home — was streamed live by the 30-year-old candidate, who says he turned on his smart phone camera when he began to feel threatened. Police and the homeowner say the entire situation appears to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding. But at a time when literally thousands of candidates and volunteers are door-knocking around the country, McClary feels like he was racially profiled.
“I don’t see why there’s a whole bunch of detectives and police cars out there, helicopters,” McClary said in an interview. “They had dogs out there!”
The ordeal began around 12:15, after McClary, a full-time member of the Broward Teacher’s Union executive board, says he decided to spend his lunch break on the campaign trail. He’s running for Seat 1 in Lauderdale Lakes, a majority-black city of roughly 40,000 in central Broward County.
He knocked on Lissette Guevara’s door. No one was home, so he says he left a campaign flier bearing his likeness in her door jamb and moved on.
About five minutes later, McClary says BSO deputies in unmarked cars pulled up suddenly as he was speaking with a voter and told him that he matched the description of a home invasion suspect. Turns out, though, McClary says he didn’t hear the alarm, he’d set off Guevara’s home security system and triggered an automatic call to police and to the homeowner. Guevara, who says her alarm is so loud it can be heard outside the house, also says she called police from work after her security contractor told her someone had been on her doorstep.
In the presence of some half-dozen deputies who believed they were responding to a burglary in progress, McClary began streaming the encounter on Facebook Live. On the video, deputies tell him they spoke to the homeowner and were told a black man in khaki pants and white shirt was seen “exiting the house.” They asked him for his identification and asked him to sit down on the ground.
A helicopter flies overhead. “I hope that’s not for me is it?” McClary asks incredulously.
Guevarra, watching her security system footage from her phone, had told police that the person who triggered her alarm hadn’t appeared on her video feed for at least five minutes. An incident report states that her sister received the call from the security company, and told police that security footage appeared to show a man fiddling with the door knob.
Deputies cleared the call after checking Guevara’s home and finding no evidence that anyone had entered the house. They also found a campaign flier on the ground in front of her door.
Though McClary’s encounter with police appears to have been respectful, he and the deputies became testy with each other at times, with McClary frustrated at having been stopped and deputies frustrated with his frustration. Police left the scene without incident, although they bristled at one point when McClary claimed “discrimination.”
“You act like I came to you and I’m cussing you. All I did was ask you can you please sit down, you match the description,” a deputy says, explaining why they had to stop him, call out a helicopter and bring police dogs to the scene of a possible home invasion.
“I understand you’re doing your job, man,” McClary says later.
Veda Coleman-Wright, a BSO spokeswoman, said deputies handled the situation appropriately.
“Mr. McClary was not mistreated. The deputies took great care explaining to him what was going on,” she said.
McClary, though, said he still wants to pursue charges against Guevara for making a false police report after reading in a BSO incident report that Guevara claimed her security contractor told her that he’d been inside her living room. Guevara, speaking to the Miami Herald Friday, said she never mentioned anything to police about an intruder in her living room. She also said she tried to watch the footage with a deputy after the event but couldn’t watch old footage.
But she said she doesn’t regret calling police. She has a 12-year-old son, and wired her doors and windows, she said, after her home was burglarized of nearly $30,000 in property.
“He could have been white, green, black. I don’t care,” said Guevara, 39. “I don’t care who you are. If you’re on my property and my alarm goes off, I’m calling the police.”