The 911 call that led to police surrounding Airbnb guests suspected of possibly burglarizing a Rialto home last month — an incident captured on video that went viral and stirred accusations of racial profiling — was released by city officials on Wednesday.
“Hi, I’m observing a young black man at one of my neighbors’ homes, walking out with luggage,” a woman tells the 911 operator in the first seconds of the call. Police have described the caller to CNN as an elderly white woman.
For 11 1/2 minutes, she remains on the phone with the operator — describing a black man carrying luggage out of a home on Loma Vista Drive and into a waiting car just outside. She later mentions other individuals at the home, saying she didn’t recognize them and their presence seems “very curious” and “suspicious.”
She describes a black man and black woman earlier in the call, but then later mentions a white woman coming out of the home. When she sees the white woman go back into the home, she appears to have second thoughts.
“OK, maybe everything’s OK. It’s just hard to tell,” she says.
The incident caught national attention when one of the three women in the group, filmmaker Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, posted video of their encounter with police to Facebook.
In a news release after the Police Department was served with a notice of pending legal action from three of the Airbnb guests, the Rialto Police Department described the incident as a “report of in-progress residential burglary,” and said officers were dispatched after a “call from a reporting party advising of a possible residential burglary at a residence” in the 2600 block of West Loma Vista Drive.
While local officials have defended the police response, Fyffe-Marshall and her friends have maintained that it’s a clear case of racial profiling and have called on Rialto police to investigate the officers’ actions.
Just over a week after incident, the group held a news conference with their attorney, Jasmine Rand. Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan, a black man, and Donisha Prendergast, a granddaughter of reggae legend Bob Marley, are the other two people who say they were targeted. The attorney said the 911 caller contacted police because the Airbnb guests didn’t wave or smile at her.
“They have a right not to smile,” Rand said during a news conference in New York. “We don’t want to live in an America where black people are forced to smile at white people to preserve their lives.”
Fyffe-Marshall and her friends had been staying at an Airbnb in the Rialto neighborhood — a fact they tried to tell officers at the scene, who then doubted them, as she explained in the Facebook post.
On the morning of April 30, the group was unloading the last of their belongings from the Airbnb when seven police cars showed up, according to the post. Later, they would be detained for at least 45 minutes, they said.
“The officers came out of their cars demanding us to put our hands in the air,” Fyffe-Marshall wrote in the post. “They informed us that there was also a helicopter tracking us.”
While the incident drew outrage over allegations of racism, the mayor of Rialto actually defended the officers’ actions, saying they were “professional” and acted “in a manner we should all be proud of.”
Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling has said “this is not a racial issue.”
“We, as residents in this community, want to be able to call for service and want police officers to arrive when we see something suspicious,” Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott said.
The call that led to the massive police response came from a woman who lives across the street. City officials released that call on Wednesday, a little over three weeks later, after receiving “numerous” requests to do so.
“Police were able to amiably resolve the matter without finding wrong-doing,” the city said in releasing the recording.
Rialto’s city attorney determined no “false report” had taken place, a spokesman for the city said Thursday, noting the caller herself never used the term “burglary.”
After the caller first describes a “young black man” walking out of the house with luggage, the call cuts out. Then she tells the operator there’s a black car parked outside.
The operator asks her for the address of the home, but she says she’s not sure. Then, the operator asks the caller if her neighbor’s car is there.
“The car’s not in the driveway. There’s a black car and I see him right now,” she says, before the call cuts out.
“I don’t know. I’m just, it’s just curious. Very curious. I don’t recognize them,” the caller says.
“You said he’s a black man?” the 911 operator responds. “What nationality are the residents?”
“Uh, they’re white.”
The operator then tells the woman not to hang up and can be heard telling someone else in the background there’s “a possible 459 in progress on Loma Vista” — the penal code for burglary. Then, the operator continues asking questions about the man supposedly at the home.
“OK, and he’s a black male. And what color shirt was he wearing?”
“Um,” the woman says, stuttering. “I’m not sure.”
“I’m going to ask you a few questions because we’re gonna have officers on the way and treat this as a burglary in progress. So what color shirt was he wearing?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Does he look … heavyset, tall?”
“It’s a black station wagon,” the woman says, appearing to not understand the operator’s question. “Newer model.”
“Can you see the license plate number on that black vehicle?”
“No, I’m … my vision is not good at all, honey, I’m sorry.”
“And are they usually at work during the day — your neighbors?”
“Yeah, yeah. They’re usually at work.”
“OK, that black station wagon — does it look new or old?”
“It’s a newer model black station wagon, parked almost in front of the house.”
“Yeah, tinted windows, uh huh.”
“OK, is it just him, is he the only person that you see going in and out of that house?”
“Is he bringing out anything other than just the luggage? Do you see him carrying anything else out?”
“I haven’t seen like a TV or something,” the woman says, with a slight laugh. “No, I haven’t seen anything like that. I just saw luggage.”
“Now with the luggage — is he, do you think he’s going to the car and unloading it, or do you think he’s just putting the luggage inside the car?”
“He’s just putting the luggage inside the car. He’s inside the house now.”
The operator then tells the woman that officers are on their way to the home. Then the woman says the man has come out of the home, and he’s wearing a black shirt, brown pants and a black baseball cap.
“And he opened the door of his vehicle. And he’s loading those items into the vehicle,” she tells the operator.
“He’s loading the items into the vehicle?”
“Yeah. I see another man coming out of the house who’s also black. No, it’s a woman … it’s a woman, it’s a black woman.”
“Does she have anything?”
“She’s got a phone in her hand and she’s got a long braid, or long hair like in a ponytail.”
Again, the operator confirms the woman’s description of the clothing worn by the man at the home.
“Is he walking to the, does it look like they’re getting ready to leave?” she then asks the caller.
The next question the operator asks is if the car looks like it will be driving west on Loma Vista.
“Yeah, uh huh. They would be heading west, going right past me.”
“They know that I’m out here. They can see me.”
“They can see you?”
“Oh yeah,” the woman says before pausing for a moment. “And I’m sure they know,” she says, her voice trailing off.
“OK, are you home alone? What is your name?”
“Yeah, I’m home alone,” she says before a long pause, which could be the call being cut off.
Then, the operator asks if there are bumper stickers on the vehicle or a visible license plate number. The caller says there’s a white sticker on the front of the car and she can’t see the numbers on the license plate.
“Tell me when they’re in the car, getting ready to leave, OK?” the operator says.
“Now there’s a white woman.”
“Coming out of the car?”
“Coming out of the house. And she has blonde hair.”
“Is that your neighbor?”
“I don’t recognize any of them,” the caller says before pausing. “They started the car and they’re leaving. There’s another black person, a woman. And she’s got a baseball cap on and a jacket and a white bag. She’s carrying some water.”
“Is the bag a large bag? Like a bag filled with stuff?”
“It’s just a white bag, like a drive-thru bag?”
“Is the vehicle mobile yet?”
“Yeah, they got the motor started.”
For a few moments, no one speaks and the operator can just be heard typing.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” the caller says.
“Are they inside the car yet?”
“The white woman, a white female, she’s going back inside the house now,” the caller says, again pausing. “OK, maybe everything’s OK. It’s just hard to tell.”
“It’s OK, we’ll double check,” the operator responds. “Maybe the white female is somebody that lives there?”
“Yeah, I don’t, I don’t understand. Um…”
“Where did the black man and black female go? Are they inside the car?”
“They’re inside the car with the doors open. They started the car, but they’re just sitting there.”
“The car started but they haven’t left?”
The woman’s response is partially inaudible but then she again describes a black man entering the home.
“Now, one of the black males, the first black male, is going back into the house again,” she tells the operator. “Now, the black car is moving and they’re turning around. They’re not going past me. They’re going to back up and go the other direction.”
The operator then tries to confirm that the car is going eastbound.
“No, no, wait a minute. Hang on. Something else is happening. They’re backing up into the driveway.”
“They’re backing up into the driveway?”
“Yeah, and the black male has come out into the driveway.”
“Is he carrying anything with him when he’s coming back outside?”
“I don’t see anything.”
“Let me know if you see them putting additional things into that vehicle.”
“I don’t see them … They’re opening up the back of the trunk.”
“And the woman is going back into the house. I don’t really, something suspicious is going on.”
“Yeah something’s going on. We’ll figure it out. They should be there any …” The call then cuts out and the operator can just be heard saying “another few seconds, OK.”
“Yeah, all of ’em are currently back out to the car now,” the caller says.
“Now they’re all exiting … the residence?”
“Yeah, they’re all coming back out.”
“They’re all exiting the residence and going back into the car?”
“Yeah,” the woman says before the call appears to cut off again. Then, she starts describing a white van that has pulled up.
“Yeah and a black, the black car (in the) driveway is leaving. Now they’re leaving. They’re leaving,” the caller says.
“Which way, which way is the black car going?”
“It’s going eastbound. And a man in a van is talking to them.”
“The black vehicle is going eastbound?”
“Yes,” the caller responds before mentioning the van again.
“And a white van just pulled up and they were talking to a man. And the man ….” Her words are cut off by a loud rumbling noise in the background.
“Is that, did the police officer just get there?” the operator asks.
“OK, I just heard a very loud car in the background.”
“Did they pass up that black vehicle?” the operator asks, apparently referring to the police who have arrived.
“Yeah, I don’t know. Wait a minute, I’ll tell ya. Oh, there’s a bunch of cops now. Oh, they got the lights on. They’ve stopped ’em.”
“They’ve stopped them? OK, perfect, thank you so much, ma’am.”
“OK, buh bye,” the operator says just before the call ends.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the genders of the people who were staying at the Airbnb, indicating the 911 caller incorrectly described one of the guests as a black man when in fact a black man was one of the group. There were two black women, a black man, and a white woman. The post has been updated.