Watch CBS News

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe defends his angry outburst over police racist text scandal

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe defends his angry outburst over the police racist text scandal
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe defends his angry outburst over the police racist text scandal 06:55

ANTIOCH -- Mayor Lamar Thorpe on Wednesday doubled down on his words and actions from the previous evening at a city council meeting that addressed the scandal surrounding racist text messages from Antioch police officers.

During the sometimes angry and contentious meeting, he challenged a resident for defending the department during a public comment session. Thorpe said the meeting was good for the city overall because it allowed residents to share their emotions. Many have been frustrated for years with local police. 

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe
  Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe CBS

ALSO READ: Emotions boil over during angry exchange over racist Antioch police texts

"I mean, there are people in this country who have been hosed down with fire hoses. There are people in this country who have had dogs attack them. There are people protesting and demonstrating," the mayor told KPIX on Wednesday. "There are people in this country who were getting spit in their face for trying to desegregate lunch counters. And here I am standing up to one racist. There's nothing for me to regret or take back."

Thorpe got into a heated exchange with a resident who defended the police department and said the mayor should be investigated. The city council eventually called a short recess and the mayor slammed the door while leaving the chamber. 

While Thorpe said some of the man's comments were a coded form of racism, he did explain the emotions he was feeling after coming back to the chamber for the rest of the meeting. 

ALSO READ: 'Outrage is an understatement' - More Antioch police officers on leave in new investigation

"I think it's a privilege that I have a right in this country to do that. Whereas other people have lost their lives for the very thing that I did," Thorpe said the next day about his actions during the meeting. 

The mayor once again called for the police chief to report to the city council and not the city manager. He said he believes that the department can operate as its own independent agency right now, so there should be a change in oversight. Many residents spoke at the meeting, wishing to share their stories of police encounters. 

"That was the most intense meeting that I've attended," said Patricia Granados, an Antioch resident who spoke Tuesday night. "There's been a few others in the past where other individuals have had to be escorted for their heckling, and disrespect. But yesterday, I just felt the presence of a lot of families that needed to heal."

ALSO READ: Antioch woman says racist text message scandal confirmed suspicions about city's police

The racist text messages came to light as part of an FBI investigation into the police departments for Antioch and Pittsburg that alleges officers were distributing cocaine and steroids, accepting bribes, intentionally using excessive force, and violating people's civil rights. Investigators say some of the officers were part of a text messaging group on their personal phones for years. In the group, they would congratulate each other for hurting people during arrests, and using the n-word repeatedly to talk about city residents.

Granados has lived in the city for more than 20 years. She says all the officers involved in this scandal should be removed and a change in culture is needed for residents like her to regain the trust of the police. 

"It's gonna take a while. It's gonna take a while until I know that all of these cops are released, relieved from their duties, stripped of their pensions," she told KPIX. 

Chief Steven Ford expressed his disappointment in the text messages after the meeting on Tuesday. But he said the city will remain safe and is not understaffed to protect the entire community. 

"That kind of speech is hurtful to anybody and it's divisive. And there's really no place for it, in policing for sure, but just in society in general," he said. 

Some on the council said Tuesday they cannot understand the lived experiences of those who spoke out and the hurt they feel from the words said in the text messages.

"I have faith in Chief Ford that he will move forward with that," said Councilmember Michael Barbanica. "I have faith that if in fact the Chief has findings that find somebody in violation that the Chief will hold those persons accountable." 

Members of the organization Reimagine Antioch also spoke at the city council meeting. Their group hopes to change the conversation on public safety by expanding it to include housing, food access and healthcare. They shared their experiences of racism in the past and their frustration to see it still showing itself decades later. 

"It still seems like there's a web of racism at the poor," said Taunita Trotter, a volunteer for the group. "And unfortunately, it's not something that has been removed as of yet."

Even the mayor said he could not promise this is the extent of the revalations coming from this scandal given how the investigation has developed so far. 

"I can't tell you what can or can't happen, because this whole process has surprised me," Thorpe said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.