A white Milwaukee man has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge filed against him after video captured him with his hand around the neck of a Black man with special needs in a case many are calling an example of racial profiling.
Robert Walczykowski, 62, recently pleaded not guilty to a disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge after video went viral of him wrapping his hand around the neck of 24-year-old Trevon Burks, who is Black and has a disability.
While police previously withheld Walczykowski’s name, the Milwaukee police department has since confirmed the charge against him, ABC news reported.
In the video, now viewed over 10,000 times, Walczykowski has his hand on Burks’ neck, accusing him of stealing a neighbor’s bike.
Walczykowski later accuses a friend of Burks’ of stealing the neighbor’s bike. Both claims that Walczykowski made are unsubstantiated.
As seen in the video, the person recording Walczykowski repeatedly asks him to remove his hand from Burks’ neck.
“I’m recording you – let go of the man’s neck,” the person holding the cellphone camera says.
“Go ahead, record,” Walczykowski says on the recording.
Walczykowski eventually removes his hand and later gives the person recording the middle finger.
Walczykowski also continued to straddle the back wheel of Burks’ bike, preventing Burks from leaving.
Eventually, Burks was able to get away from Walczykowski. He left the area before police arrived at the scene.
Many expressed outrage at the video, including Burks’ family, who called the encounter with Walczykowski an example of “hatred”.
“My son didn’t do anything wrong and, if I was to get justice, I would want him to pay for what he did,” said Burks’ mother, Tracey, during a news conference last week.
“That was very wrong for him to do that and he could’ve come at my son a different way. He didn’t have to choke my son. It was a hatred thing what he did.”
Many who weighed in on the confrontation before Walczykowski was charged wondered whether Burks might have been more badly hurt – or worse – if the encounter had happened at a time when cellphones weren’t ubiquitous.
Some even referred to the US’s shameful history of lynchings. According to records maintained by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, at least 4,800 Black people were lynched by racists across the US from 1882 to 1968.
False or unsubstantiated accusations of misdeeds sometimes fueled those murders.