Officer William Moore, who has worked for the department for more than 20 years, is being paid while off the schedule. Once the internal investigation is complete, council members will decide whether Moore returns to duty.
“It’s an ongoing investigation, and I can’t comment further,” Turiak said.
Moore declined to comment about the incident.
Vandergrift police Chief Joe Caporali said Moore responded to a Westmoreland County 911 call just before 8 a.m. Saturday reporting that a Black male was smoking marijuana outside G&G Restaurant on Columbia Avenue. The chief did not say who placed the 911 call.
When Moore arrived, he initiated a conversation inside the restaurant with Marcus Townsend, 20, of Vandergrift, Caporali said. Townsend, who is Black, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Townsend recorded video of the encounter and posted several clips on social media after the incident. He can be heard asking why he was being questioned and then asked to leave the restaurant by the officer.
In an exchange outside the restaurant, Townsend said in one video, “You came straight to the Black dude sitting at the table.”
“Because I got called for you,” Moore, who is white, can be heard responding.
“Yeah, because you were the one smoking weed,” Moore replied.
Townsend denied smoking marijuana outside the restaurant.
“These allegations are being taken seriously by borough officials,” said Caporali, adding the internal investigation is ongoing and a time frame for completing it is unknown.
Moore previously was placed on paid leave in 2017 after police said he assaulted and threatened a 14-year-old boy. Online court records show Moore pleaded guilty in Armstrong County Court to a summary count of harassment and paid a fine.