Detroit police lieutenant temporarily reassigned after comments to protester caught on video

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Posted at 5:59 PM, May 20, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A heated interaction between a Detroit Police Department lieutenant and a protester downtown on Sunday has led to backlash in the community.

In a video posted online, the lieutenant is heard saying, “Why don’t you just go back to Mexico?” The lieutenant appeared to be talking to a pro-Palestinian protester, which prompted immediate shouting back at police.

Watch the video posted online below:

VIDEO: Clip shared on social media of lieutenant telling protester to 'go back to Mexico'

The incident happened outside the Detroit NAACP Branch Freedom Fund Dinner at Huntington Place as President Joe Biden attended as a keynote speaker.

7 News Detroit spoke with Lexis Zeidan, the protester involved, about the interaction.

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Lexis Zeidan, who was a pro-Palestinian protester at a demonstration in downtown Detroit, talks about her interaction with a Detroit Police Department lieutenant. (May 20, 2024)

“I mean immediately, I said ‘I’m not even Mexican,’” Zeidan said. “What you see is a lieutenant who is supposed to be surveilling and ensuring things remain peaceful and calm only engaging in conversation with protests that was clearly unprofessional and escalating a situation in which we were peacefully protesting and in fact, following rules.”

On Monday Detroit’s police chief and the head of internal affairs said the lieutenant is temporarily reassigned and an internal investigation has been launched.

Watch the full press conference with DPD below:

Detroit police hold press conference after lieutenant tells pro-Palestinian protester to 'go back to Mexico'

“We are an inclusive department. This is not a theme; this is who we are,” Detroit Police Department Chief James White said.

However, police pushed back saying the exchange was not motivated by race but rather the lieutenant was referencing to a vacation in Mexico that Zeidan had posted about publicly.

“The protester that the lieutenant was engaging was recently out of town on vacation in Mexico and the lieutenant was aware of that. His comment was related to her returning to vacation,” said Michael McGinnis, a commander and head of internal affairs.

Watch body camera video released by Detroit police below:

Bodycam video shows interaction between Detroit police lieutenant and protester

Furthermore, police say the lieutenant was called out by name by demonstrators who brought up his personal life.

“There’s evidence to suggest that they've been posting personal information about officers. It's evident from the video that there is some sort of knowledge both ways between the officer and the protester and the other way as well,” McGinnis said.

Earlier on Monday, we also heard from the community about the standards police are held to and what’s appropriate regardless of how heated things get.

“It’s a remark that’s not really appropriate in today’s age or even back then. It's something that’s just inappropriate,” Maria Rivera said.

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Maria Rivera talks with 7 News Detroit reporter Simon Shaykhet. (May 20, 2024)

“We see the content and context, but that does not say that we don’t have some problems in how this whole situation went. That’s where we focus now,” White said.

“Racially profiling someone is one problem, surveilling an innocent civilian is a whole other problem,” Zeidan said. “To literally, blatantly explain that you were doing a deep dive on my socials and tracking my activity, to then telling me on site that aren’t I so luckily I get to surveillance you at any time, begs to a bigger problem of issues in our country.”

In the meantime, Zeidan says she feels she deserves an apology and would prefer that happen in person.