A black Providence firefighter joined protests in the Rhode Island city Friday to share his own story of racial profiling.
Terrell Paci, 23, was just chilling in full uniform in a friend’s car in front of his fire station earlier this week when officers pulled guns and approached him, he told local CBS affiliate WPRI on live television.
“I was like, ‘I’m a firefighter, I’m PFD, I’m one of you,’ and they still kept approaching the vehicle with guns drawn,” Paci said. “After identifying me as a Providence firefighter, one officer asked if I had a gun in the vehicle.”
Paci told WPRI that he tried to explain that as a firefighter, he was both not allowed to carry a weapon and not subject to the city’s curfew that night, which went into effect well before the 11:30 p.m. incident.
“I said, ‘No I am not allowed to carry a firearm while on duty, I am an essential worker and I’m not breaking curfew.'”
Paci then said one officer searched only the passenger’s side of the car, where he was sitting, before glancing in the back of the car and “hastily” driving off. He told WPRI that he received an in-person apology later that night from a police chief, but not from the officers who profiled him.
The president of the Providence Firefighters Union, Derek Silva, wrote a Notes app defense of Paci and shared it on Twitter.
“We stand with our brother Terrell Paci,” Silva wrote. “This situation makes it clear that even in uniform – a young black man is not immune from the impact of systemic, institution racism.”
A Providence polices spokesperson told WPRI the department is investigating the incident.