FAIRFIELD, Calif. (Lisa Fernandez/KTVU) - An African-American father took a controversial video this week of a woman later arrested on a drunk driving charge in Northern California, touching off a firestorm on social media about whether he should have called police to report her instead of laughing with his two kids in the back of his vehicle.
The nearly six-minute Facebook Live clip, posted Thursday to Jazz Jenkin’s Facebook page, started to spread like wildfire on Friday, with some, like Irene Shaw, criticizing the dad for not stopping a “tragedy waiting to happen.” Others said someone's race is not an excuse not to call police, and several African-Americans on Facebook said that they would have called authorities.
But Jenkins, 36, defended himself in a series of posts and comments, arguing that as a black man he is not going to call the police for anything, and that a woman next to him had already called 911. Then he wrote the hashtag #TakeHerKeysAnotherBlackManDeadInTheStreet #NoSuicuideByCopToday.
In a phone interview Friday with KTVU, Jenkins, who owns a roadside assistance business, added that there was simply no way he was going to call police or stop a driver by putting his hands into a vehicle and trying to pull out the keys. "That's how you end up dead in America," he said. "If I would have reached into the car, I would have been shot down dead."
Fairfield Police Sgt. Troy Oviatt confirmed to KTVU on Friday that the woman was arrested on a DUI charge stemming from the Thursday 3 p.m. incident on Air Base Parkway in Fairfield, Calif. near Travis Air Force base. Oviatt refused to identify the driver by name. She is seen in the video as having red hair and wearing a T-shirt that boasts her love of coffee.
While Jenkins is heard saying she crashed into as many as eight cars, Oviatt said she was only arrested in connection with hitting one. As for what Jenkins did, Oviatt said that while it's technically a misdemeanor to not use a hands-free device while driving, he added "there is value in seeing a crime or danger and attempting to record it." As for Jenkins not wanting to call police because of his race, Oviatt said that he encourages all citizens, no matter what race, to call police for help because officers are there to "try to help make the community safe." Jenkins did acknowledge to KTVU that he was driving with one hand and filming with the other.
Jenkins is never seen on the video, only heard, along with the voices of two boys, ages 11 and 7. The mood in his vehicle is fun and jovial, as if he were taking his kids to an amusement park - the tone of which garnered the most social media criticism. While the driver of the white pickup truck turns out to be a white woman, Jenkins believes that at first, the drunk driver is male.
“There he goes! There he goes! Hahahahaha,” Jenkins is heard laughing. “I’m behind a drunk driver, ya’ll. Uh oh, he’s about to hit a tree. He’s drunk as hell. He hit the car in front of him. Ha ha. I told ya’ll. I’m behing this mother f----. He’s drunk.”
His 7-year-old is heard saying: “He’s gonna hit the car. Dad, I feel like his car is going to explode.”
Jenkins answers: “He’s gonna crash and we’re not gonna miss this.” Then, rhetorically to the driver, Jenkins shouts out: “Hurry up and crash into something. Damn, end it all, man. End it all.”
The video continues, and at the end, Jenkins captures the white pickup crashing into the car of a woman, who is not hurt. He also captures the female driver of the pickup getting out of her truck. “You crashed into five people back there,” Jenkins yells at the driver. Then he shouts to someone else: “You call the police already? I watched her crash into almost eight people.”
Jenkins said he shared the video with MediaTakeOut, where the post started to go viral and garner mostly negative comments about his behavior, especially with his kids in tow.
Friday morning, Jenkins wrote a sarcastic post, saying that the “survey says” he should have gotten out of his car on the parkway and took the “ladies (sic) keys out of the ignition. I should have blocked her in with my children in the car LOL.”
As for the tone of his video, Jenkins said during his interview that he didn't know a woman was going to get rear-ended in the end, and he could see why laughing in the video upset some people. "I might have been a little cold hearted," he said. "But that's the way of the world."
And for bringing his kids along and treating the excursion like a game? "My kids knew the lady was an idiot," Jenkins said. "They knew it was wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have been laughing. They have never seen me drunk or getting high. But everyone has their own way of talking to their kids."