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Woman With Puerto Rico Flag Shirt ‘Feared for My Safety’ While Being Harassed in Illinois

The woman who was harassed by a man for wearing a Puerto Rico flag shirt wants the officer who ignored her pleas for help in an Illinois park to be held somehow responsible.

Mia Irizarry was getting ready to celebrate her 24th birthday at Caldwell Woods park when a man began to berate her, saying her shirt was un-American and asking whether she was a US citizen.

The incident, which occurred last month, was caught on video. In it, a parks officer can be seen standing idly by as Irizarry asks for his help in dealing with the man.

The officer, who was identified by Forest Preserves of Cook County as Patrick Connor, resigned earlier this week.

But that’s not enough, Irizarry said in a Friday news conference.

“I will never get to hear from this man, this protector, his reasoning for why my safety — no, my life — had such little value to him,” she said, “why an American citizen could not reap the benefits of the police force when it was most needed.”

“What a coward to run away when his discrepancies were brought to the light, when justice was to be served,” she added.

Irizarry said what she really wanted out of the experience was “justice” and an apology.

“I want the officer, or the ex-officer, to really be held accountable, whatever that looks like,” Irizarry said Friday. “And throughout this whole thing, from all the people who have apologized to me, the one person who hasn’t is him.”

An attorney for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, which is representing Connor, said this week that the video “does not look good” but cautioned that it may not tell the whole story.

The preserve district police chief, Kelvin Pope, said he didn’t know why Connor apparently didn’t step in initially, but that he feels “he wasn’t given a fair shake” and that “he was very remorseful.”

But the officer resigned before investigators could ask him what happened in a disciplinary hearing, Pope said at a news conference Thursday.

‘I feared for my safety’

Authorities have accused Timothy G. Trybus in connection with the incident and charged him with state hate crimes and assault.

Trybus’ attorney, David B. Goldman, said Friday his client had six teeth removed the day before the incident and was under the influence of pain medication and the effects of alcohol at the time of the encounter.

Irizarry also shed more light Friday on the incident.

Irizarry said she had gone to the Caldwell Woods in northwestern Chicago park to set up for her birthday party. She had rented an area of the park, and Trybus and two others were there when she arrived. She said she asked them to leave.

That’s when Trybus asked her twice whether her shirt depicted the Texas flag, Irizarry said. Twice she told him that, no, it was the Puerto Rican flag.

Trybus then allegedly stood on top of the table, according to Irizarry, who said it made her feel threatened and prompted her to take out her phone and start recording.

She didn’t stop for about two hours, she said.

In the footage, a man can be seen approaching Irizarry saying: “You should not be wearing that in the United States of America.” He gets closer to her and asks “Are you a citizen? Are you a United States citizen?”

Irizarry says Puerto Rico is part of the United States and the man approaches her multiple times. She asks a park police officer to help, saying, “I am renting this area and he’s harassing me about the shirt that I’m wearing.”

Later she says: “Officer, I feel highly uncomfortable. Can you please grab him? Please, officer?” as the officer is seen walking away from her.

“I can honestly say that I feared for my safety,” she said Friday.

Irizarry said she had never experienced racism to that degree, but could sympathize with victims of other racist incidents she has seen online.

“But now I get to empathize,” she said, “and it’s a completely different feeling.”

Man ordered to wear electric monitor

Trybus, who is facing two felony hate crime charges in connection with the June 14 incident, appeared in court Friday afternoon and was released on $10,000 bond with electronic monitoring, according to Cook County State’s Attorney spokeswoman Tandra Simonton.

In addition, Trybus was ordered by a judge to undergo an alcohol assessment. He was also forbidden from having contact with Irizarry, any witnesses or with the Cook County Forest Preserve.

Trybus could face up to five years in prison for each of the hate crime charges.

He also faces separate charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

His next court appearance is scheduled for August 1.