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Providence firefighter claims he was racially profiled by police

Twenty-three-year-old Providence Firefighter Terrell Paci says he became the victim of racial profiling earlier this week. (WJAR)
Twenty-three-year-old Providence Firefighter Terrell Paci says he became the victim of racial profiling earlier this week. (WJAR)
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A Providence firefighter claims he was the victim of racial profiling this week at the hands of city police officers.

Terrell Paci, 23, told NBC 10 News he was sitting in a friend's car outside of the Messer Street fire station, where he works, when two officers allegedly came up to him and drew their guns.

Paci said he was still in uniform and on duty, and immediately told the officers he's a firefighter.

"And then the white cop asked if I had a gun after just identifying me as a Providence firefighter. I said 'I am not allowed to have a weapon on the job, why would I have a weapon?'" Paci said.

The officers claimed the firefighter matched the description of a suspect reportedly seen waving a gun nearby, Paci said.

"The white cop then asked to search the car. He asked the driver and the driver consented," he explained. "He then went to my side, the passenger's side, and searched. He never searched her side, never searched her purse, never searched her glove box, never searched her registration and insurance, then moved onto the back. He said 'there is too much stuff in the back, I do not want to inconvenience you and take up your time.' But you already took up my time."

Fellow firefighters like Chris Bernal are now speaking out.

"Why is a young black male in uniform at his job a threat to a police officer? And when they noticed, why didn't they fall back and correct the situation there?" asked Bernal.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said the department is now investigating.

Derek Silva, the president of the Providence Firefighters Union, tweeted the following statement:

We stand with our brother, Terrell Paci, who was on duty, and in uniform, in front of the Messer Street fire station when he and a visitor were profile by Providence Police. A 23-year-old black firefighter had a gun drawn -- and held -- on him even after he announced himself as a firefighter, even as he stood before these police officers in his full fire department uniform, in front of his workplace. The situation makes clear that even in uniform -- a young black man is not immune from the impact of systemic, institutional racism. While we value our working relationship with the Providence Police, and know there are many officers who are working to change police culture, this incident proves that there is more work to be done.

Paci is now calling the incident a wake-up call to people of color everywhere.

"It can happen to anyone. I didn't think I could be at work as a firefighter and have two cops pull guns on me while sitting outside doing my job, waiting for the bell to ring. It should have never happened," said Paci.

In a statement, Mayor Jorge Elorza called the allegations "deeply disturbing" and said the city has opened an investigation into the incident.

"No one should have to experience something like this and we apologize on behalf of our city for the trauma it has caused," Elorza wrote. "We stand with Firefighter Paci and thank him for his unwavering dedication to a city that he protects every day through his service."

Vice President Mike Pattie of the Providence Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement they disagree with the content of Paci's statement and the firefighter union's message.

"At no time did the officers display any act that could be construed as racial profiling, they were simply responding to and investigating an incident based on the information given them from an on-scene complainant," said Pattie.

He added, "To have someone embellish what took place to grab a headline, especially in a time of turmoil, is the exact toxic nature of which we all are trying to move away from. Good officers of different ethnicities are being accused of misconduct that clearly did not take place as originally reported. It is sad and disgusting that a Providence firefighter would distort the truth about our police officers, and that his opportunistic union president would recklessly publicize these mistruths in an environment when police are under attack. The only injustice here is that by the firefighter in question and his union president."

The full release can be seen below:

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