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UNR officer placed on leave after remark about shooting student

Updated September 27, 2017 - 9:37 pm

A University of Nevada, Reno officer has been placed on administrative leave after making comments about shooting a graduate student during a traffic stop Sunday.

In a body camera video posted online, two officers can be seen speaking with people outside of a car. About 4 minutes and 20 seconds into the video, an officer can be heard commenting on a black graduate student’s large build, saying, “I’m glad you’re not fighting, you’re too big.” Another officer can be seen and heard saying, “I’m just going to shoot him if things go sideways.”

Kevin McReynolds Sr., 61, said his 24-year-old son, Kevin Jr., is the graduate student in the video. He said his son told him about the incident, and his initial reaction was disbelief.

“No police officer is that idiotic,” he said. “And then I saw the video.”

Adam Garcia, UNR director of police services, called the comments “inappropriate and offensive” in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

“I have seen the video and I find the language that was used to be disturbing, offensive and unacceptable,” the statement said. “I condemn this reprehensible language, and again, offer my sincerest apologies to the graduate student for what occurred.”

Garcia said he and UNR President Marc Johnson have apologized to the student. Garcia called the student “brave” for reporting the incident.

School police and the university’s Title IX Office are investigating. Police said they released the body camera footage for transparency.

The officer on administrative leave is not on campus, Garcia said.

UNR’s communications office couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

McReynolds Sr., reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, was curious whether the officer in question was paid while on leave or would return. His son couldn’t be reached for comment.

The comments and video come amid increased scrutiny of police shootings of civilians, specifically black men. Former UNR quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked a wave of protests throughout the National Football League when he knelt during the national anthem last year in protest of police brutality.

McReynolds Sr. said he was baffled an officer would make comments about lethal force, even jokingly, to a black man during a traffic stop. The remarks, he said, were disturbing, particularly in a social climate of protests against police brutality. Police should be more sensitive while interacting with black people, women and LGBT people during traffic stops, he added.

“I’m scared and fearful for my son,” he said.

McReynolds Sr. questioned whether police would’ve made similar comments if his son, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, were white.

“Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t die,” he said.

His son played football at UCLA, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science and government in May 2015, and played the sport at UNR while pursuing his master’s of business administration degree. He’s set to graduate in May, his father said.

McReynolds Sr. said he is proud of his son, noting he has high aspirations and runs his own business.

“It could’ve been snuffed out in a moment,” McReynolds Sr. said.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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