A fire lieutenant has been placed on administrative leave while town officials investigate his involvement in a potentially racist incident caught on video and widely circulated on social media last week.
In a joint statement, Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and fire Chief Michael Mansfield said the lieutenant is believed to be the white man in the video taken by Gabby Batista, a 19-year-old dark-skinned Dominican woman and lifelong Andover resident.
The video depicts the white man, now identified as the lieutenant, sitting in a black Chevy Tahoe in Batista’s driveway on Beacon Street.
He says, “I just wanted to make sure someone wasn’t stealing something” after seeing Batista take mail from her own mailbox.
At the time the lieutenant — who is not being identified per advice of labor counsel — was off duty and driving his personal vehicle, according to the statement.
“This is an extremely concerning situation, one that demands a full accounting of the facts,” Flanagan said.
Due to the sensitive nature of the situation, the town consulted with its labor counsel and retained an independent investigator to look into the facts and “conduct a holistic review of the matter,” according to the statement.
Under the terms of the Fire Rescue collective bargaining agreement, the lieutenant is out of work and on indefinite paid administrative leave.
Batista took the video last Tuesday, when she said she drove to her home with a friend to check her mailbox, then go back out. As she and the friend drove away from her home, her friend noticed a man in a black Chevy Tahoe was following them, Batista said.
She and her friend stopped, she said, and she asked the man, “Sir, can I help you?”
Batista said he responded, “You just took mail from that house.”
“No, I live here,” she said she responded.
Batista said once she confronted the man, she and her friend returned to her home. Then, she said, the man pulled into her driveway. That was when she began videoing with her cellphone.
On the video, Batista can be heard saying, “This is literally none of your business.” The man responds, “I just wanted to make sure someone wasn’t stealing something.”
Batista posted the video to her Twitter account. It had been viewed more than 12,000 times as of late Wednesday night.
“If I was a white female that was doing that, then no questions would have been asked,” Batista said.