PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – “This is the f*****g ICE motherload right here,” the officer is heard saying on the police car's internal camera. “Fourteen of 'em. Not one of 'em speaks English. No drivers' licenses. ICE is going to be coming out with their f******g SWAT team on this one.”
That dashcam video that was released in federal court on Wednesday has Maine State Trooper Robert Burke in hot water.
WATCH ► Raw dashcam of 295 traffic stop & arrests
“It certainly isn't something we want seen on the air and in the public's view,” the chief of State Police said.
According to court documents, Maine State Trooper Robert Burke pulled a white van over on 295-south in Portland, he says because of a cracked windshield and a passenger without a seatbelt.
Soon after, he discovered that the driver did not have a license, and nobody in the van spoke English.
Officer Burke says in an attempt to find someone able to drive the vehicle, he proceeded to ask for the IDs of all 11 people in the van. He can be heard in the cabin camera video reading through the IDs of the 11 people inside of the white van. "El Salvador. I don't even know where this is from. Guam – where's that from? El Salvador, when do these?...There's another one I don't—Honduras, Mexico, two of them don't have anything."
None of the people in the van were able to produce valid driver's licenses, or US documentation.
That's when Officer Burke suspected an illegal immigration situation - and called ICE to come in as backup. Colonel Robert Williams, the chief of Maine State Police, said calling ICE was the right thing to do. He said calling in the appropriate agency to deal with specific situations like illegal immigration is typical protocol.
In the video, Trooper Burke can be heard talking on the phone to an ICE agent who he called to the scene. The trooper says, "So I would think we'd be able to hold them as long as it takes for you to get here.” The ICE agent then asks to speak to the people in the van on the phone, to which Trooper Burke responds, “Yeah I really don't want them touching my phone. They're disgusting.” He and the agent laugh together afterwards.
At some point in the two hours of the traffic stop, Mario Ernesto Garcia-Zavala, a 22-year-old from Honduras, was detained by ICE. He is charged with reentering the US illegally after he was deported in 2014. His lawyer doesn't deny that Garcia-Zavala is an undocumented immigrant - something the defendant also admitted to ICE agents. “He's undocumented,” said Attorney Robert Andrews. “There's no question.”
It's not the arrest of his client - but what was said in the police cruiser - that has Andrews furious.
“Dude they're f*****g all sketchy as hell,” Burke can be heard saying.
Andrews claims the officer racially profiled his clients, and it was an illegal search and seizure when he asked for documents and licenses. “I'm angry because it's one thing to try to enforce immigration law, and it's quite another to have contempt and disrespect for the people you are meant to protect,” Andrews said. “In my view, if [Burke] can't protect all of us, he shouldn't be protecting any of us.”
The defense attorney has filed a motion to dismiss much of the evidence in this case. He says the best case scenario for his client would be to return to Honduras without a criminal conviction on his record.
Colonel Robert Williams of Maine State Police says that while the videos are embarrassing, Trooper Burke does not have a history of racial profiling.
He says that edited videos only show the bad things he said during this stop, but that the trooper was respectful to those in the van.
He also called the allegations a "last ditch" effort by the defense to save its client.
Trooper Burke is still out on patrol, but Williams did not rule out the possibility of an investigation.