A Medford police detective has been placed on administrative leave after he was caught on video threatening to “blow a hole through your f—ing head’’ while pulling over a driver who drove the wrong way at a traffic circle.
Medford Police Chief Leo Sacco confirmed to Boston.com that the man in the video was Medford Police Detective Stephen Lebert.
“He’s a 30-year member of the department and works in our detective division,’’ Sacco said. “He’s a very effective police officer but last night’s incident that’s on video, at least that portion of the video that I saw, is troubling to say the least.’’
Recorded using a dashboard camera, the video was posted by user “basedboston,’’ who spoke to Boston.com by phone on Monday. Mike, 25, a software developer who lives in Malden, Mass., said he wasn’t comfortable providing his last name. The traffic stop happened on Sunday night when he got lost and accidentally drove the wrong way down an unfamiliar one-way street at a traffic circle in Medford, Mike said.
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Mike said he had recently purchased the dashboard camera after another car struck him at a red light. He was hoping to protect himself in the event of another accident. He described the encounter in a description of the video:
“Driving home today I got lost and made a wrong turn. In an unfamiliar area I drove slowly but made the mistake of not seeing a poorly marked rotary. I stopped midway through it when I realized I screwed up and fortunately there were no close calls or potential accidents. Only a single oncoming car (not the medford cop/detective in the video, he was on the other side) that had fully stopped before the rotary seeing my stupid mistake. After I stopped and realized it was too late I just continued out of the way and back onto the correct road in front of me. This man starts tailgating me and puts his high beams on in his Red Chevy Silverado pick up truck. He then yells how I’m an asshole and that he is going to hurt me, and well the rest is in the video.
The date is incorrect as my dashcam apparently was set wrong. I very rarely ever need to pull videos off of it over the period of time I’ve owned it and just didn’t notice the date mistake. The time however is right’’
The video begins with a red pickup truck pulling up next to the driver. Lebert, dressed in a white tank top and cargo shorts, gets out and approaches the car, shouting unintelligibly.
Mike repeatedly informed Lebert that he had a dash camera and was filming the exchange. Massachusetts is a “two-party consent’’ state, which means it’s illegal to record audio without the knowledge and permission of the person being recorded—but, you don’t have to tell a cop you’re recording them. There is a gap in the recording when Mike turned his car off.
Here is a transcript of the exchange, in which the driver repeatedly apologizes and tries to de-escalate the situation, while Lebert continues to threaten him:
Lebert: “I’ll put a hole right through your f—ing head.’’
Driver: “I didn’t know you were a cop.’’
Lebert: “I’ll put a hole right through your head.’’
Driver: “Okay, okay, okay, okay.’’
Lebert: “I’m a f—ing Medford detective. And you went through that f—ing Rotary.’’
Driver: “I didn’t see a sign. I didn’t see a sign –’’
Lebert: “Give me your license.’’ … “Don’t worry, there will be a cruiser here in two seconds.’’
Driver: “Sorry, I didn’t see that sign.’’
Lebert: “You’re lucky I’m a f—ing cop. Cause I’d be beating the f—ing piss outta you right now.’’
Lebert: “Gimme your license.’’
Driver: “I just wanna let you know–’’
Lebert: “Gimme your license!’’
Driver: “I also wanna let you know–’’
Lebert: “Gimme your license!’’
Driver: “Okay, I just wanna let you know I also have a dash camera.’’
(Lebert walks away from vehicle, then turns around and starts walking back toward it, shouting.)
Lebert: “So I’ll seize that. I’m gonna seize that camera when you almost hit that car head-on when you went through the rotary the wrong way.’’
Driver: “I didn’t see the rotary. Yeah I — I messed up.’’
Lebert: “I’m seizing your camera. Thanks a lot.’’
Later on during the video, another exchange:
Driver: “I thought you had a gun, so I got scared.’’
Lebert: “I didn’t show you the gun. I showed you my badge and ID.’’
Driver: “All I see is you reaching through your pocket, and you’re coming at me aggressively. I’m gonna run. It’s scary.’’
Lebert: “You almost hit a car head-on.’’
Lebert then orders the driver to shut his car off. He complies. At one point, Lebert accuses the driver of trying to flee the scene, which he denies.
There’s a break in the video, and then the driver appears to be speaking to other bystanders and asking them to stick around and support his story to other police officers who have showed up at the scene.
Driver: “I thought that guy was gonna kill me. He was yelling at me. I was super scared.’’
Then the driver has an exchange with a different officer who has arrived at the scene:
Driver: “I don’t know who that guy is.’’
Cop: “That’s one of our detectives.’’
Driver: “Yeah, he told me that. But, I didn’t know that, and he was super aggressive at me. He was yelling. And he jumped out of his truck, and he yells that he’s gonna blow my brains out. And so I got scared and I threw it into reverse. I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Like I don’t know this guy. He’s got tattoos, he’s got wifebeaters. Where i’m from — I grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts — it’s a rough area. When someone says they got a gun, they usually got a gun. So I’m like, ‘Oh, my god. I’ve gotta get the hell outta here.’’’
Also Monday a 2012 video resurfaced of Lebert confronting a man trying to film him. In the 2012 video, he is seen licking his finger and trying to wipe it on the lens. (You can watch the full video here.)
This article has been updated with information about First Amendment rights. Read more here.