INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis family at the center of a viral video says they were racially discriminated against by an Indy Parks ranger.
The incident, all caught on camera and later posted to TikTok, happened at Eagle Creek Park on Mother’s Day weekend.
FOX59’s/CBS4’s Jenny Dreasler has learned exclusively that the family is filing a formal complaint against the ranger.
Isaac Juarez said he, his wife, Angela Gonzalez, and four kids were at Eagle Creek Park celebrating Mother’s Day on Saturday, May 13, when the afternoon took a turn.
The family says they were kicked out of the park and the ranger didn’t tell them why and that the entire situation was an example ofracial discrimination.
The viral video has been viewed nearly half a million times across social media.
In the video, an Indy Parks ranger can be heard telling the family, “Out, out, Vamanos!”
“I don’t know what happened,” said Isaac “Joe” Juarez. “We don’t understand. We don’t understand because he didn’t explain specifics why he told me ‘out’. Why he spoke Spanish and said ‘vamanos’.”
The family said they don’t know why they were kicked out of the park.
“Because I said so,” the ranger said in the video. “Because the lieutenant told you to and I’m telling you to. You leave the park now, or I’ll arrest you for trespassing.”
The family said the ranger first approached the family while their kids played in the sand near the water and that the ranger warned them not to go past the barrier and into the paid portion of the swimming area.
“We said, ‘Don’t worry we won’t be swimming over there’,” said Gonzalez. “He said ‘OK, if not, you’re done’,” Gonzalez explained as she said the ranger made a gesturing motion horizontally to his neck.
About 15 minutes later, they said the ranger told them to leave the park altogether because they were trespassing.
In the video, the ranger can be heard saying, “you get a ticket and you leave, or you leave now.”
“We said why?” explained Gonzalez. “We can make food and eat here at the tables and stay in the park. He said ‘no, vamanos, get out.’ My husband said ‘what is the reason?’ He [the park ranger] said ‘I can’t explain it to you give me your ID.'”
In a statement provided to FOX59/CBS4 on Monday, Indy Parks said:
“The family was engaged by Park Rangers prior to the video because of “no swimming” and parking violations in the area. Indy Parks welcomes all, and expects staff to remain professional and courteous at all times. Indy Parks is working with Park Rangers to improve communication and ensure that all visitors are treated with respect. Parks staff members have been in contact with members of the family since Tuesday, May 16.”Indy Park and Recreation on 5/22
The family said that’s not true, and that they weren’t parked illegally.
They say the bigger issue is the ranger yelled at them in Spanish.
“It was racial discrimination for sure, for sure,” said Juarez. “That’s discrimination because I [didn’t] speak Spanish. Spanish is my first language right now. But we didn’t talk to him in Spanish.”
FOX59/CBS4 reached out to Indy Parks on Wednesday, after their initial statement. We asked for clarification about how they would address the family’s claims of racial discrimination.
“Indy Parks staff are committed to racial equity and inclusion and to welcoming all. As mentioned in the statement, we’ve followed up to ensure that the Park Rangers, a unit of IMPD, treat park visitors with respect, courtesy, and professionalism.”Indy Park and Recreation on 5/24
The spokesperson also added the following statement in a subsequent email:
“[Indy Parks] have stressed to the Rangers once a person has complied with a request and is no longer in violation of park rules/ordinances (in this instance the violations were swimming and location of parking), expelling that person from the park should happen rarely or, preferably, never.”Indy Park and Recreation on 5/24
“The only thing I need from this police ranger, is he needs to apologize to my family, and me, my kids and never try to do this again,” said Gonzalez.
The family said they were offered a free membership to the park by officials with Eagle Creek.
“We don’t need that,” said Juarez. “We don’t need the membership. We need justice. We need justice.”
A spokesperson with the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus said they will be filing a formal complaint on behalf of the Juarez/Gonzalez family to the Marion County Citizens Complaint Board.
The spokesperson, who is also a former member of the complaint board, said the board will hold a hearing to determine if the park ranger:
- Used profane or abusive language
- Exceeded authority
- Acted in violation of IMPD rules or regulations
FOX59/CBS4 also reached out to IMPD about the incident. This is what they said.
“We are aware of an incident that involved a park ranger and a family at Eagle Creek Park over the weekend. This incident began when the family was swimming in a “no swimming” area due to an ongoing event, and the park ranger engaged out of concern for safety. IMPD recognizes there are opportunities to improve interactions like this in the future. The IMPD believes every resident should be treated with respect, dignity and professionalism and we are reviewing the matter.”Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department on 5/24