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Longview police officer disciplined after viral video sparks complaints

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The Longview Police Department is disciplining one of its officers following a September interaction with a Longview resident after footage of the stop went viral, with many viewers saying the officer was disrespectful.

An Oct. 19 warning letter addressed from Longview Capt. Branden McNew to Officer David Mora notifies him that he violated department policy by “unnecessarily” escalating the situation, according to a memo obtained by The Daily News.

In the memo McNew writes that Mora’s conduct “demonstrates a lack of emotional intelligence,” and he improperly used de-escalation tactics when he approached Rayshaun Swagerty-Owens, 31, Sept. 19 after he lit candles in honor

of a friend who had died in a nearby car accident earlier that day in the Highlands. Longview police previously said Swagerty-Owens was approached during routine checks in the neighborhood.

Footage of the interaction went viral on major social media platforms, with 4.9 million views on TikTok alone, with criticism of Mora’s performance.

One user on TikTok commented, “So, sitting on a bench watching candles is a crime now??? Did I miss something?.”

Another user was critical of Mora, saying “Homie was sitting there mourning, and the cop had the audacity to escalate the situation.”

Rayshaun Swagerty-Owens

Rayshaun Swagerty-Owens sits on a bench on Sept. 19 in the Highlands as he is approached by Longview Police Officer David Mora. The image is a screenshot from Mora's body camera footage which the Longview Police Department shared. 

In the memo, McNew writes Mora’s actions “reflected unfavorably on this department.”

The department has instructed Mora to retake de-escalation tactics and emotional intelligence training, stipulating he has to explain what he learned in a presentation to his patrol team. As of last week, Mora has yet to attend the training program, but he is scheduled to, said McNew.

The letter also says Mora attended “coaching/counseling” on the “proper utilization of de-escalation tactics” earlier this year.

The written warning is to remain in Mora’s personnel file for at least one year, and he has the option to appeal the warning letter, the memo states.

Swagerty-Owens said Mora racially profiled him on Sept. 19 because he was only approached at the vigil when he, a person of color, was alone. He and dozens of others were mourning 26-year-old Celeste Williams, who died in the single-car crash earlier in the day on Industrial Way. The crash also injured two other occupants and claimed the life of William’s newborn child, who died weeks later from injuries sustained in the rollover crash.

Swagerty-Owens witnessed the rescue efforts by first responders as well as bystanders who rushed into the dike to try to save the driver and passengers.

Swagerty-Owens said the department’s written warning to Mora isn’t enough.

“To me, that’s a slap on the wrist,” he said.

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