“You Look Like A Drug Dealer”, Pastor Accuses DMPD Of Racial Profiling

DES MOINES, Iowa – A pastor visiting from Virginia claims he was racially profiled by the Des Moines Police Department.

Late Saturday night, Reverend Tony Suarez, says a squad car followed his car into a hotel parking lot after he finished speaking at a hispanic church on the south side.

Suarez who is Colombian, says the squad car followed closely behind him for close to three miles. Suarez was driving a white BMW, loaned to him by a church member during his stay. According to Suarez, he parked his car and the two officers approached him.

“They began to question me for my ID, how I make a living, what I do for money and why I’m in this city.”

Suarez says the officers, Officer Herman and Officer Carter, told him they were looking for a man with dark hair driving a white BMW.

The pastor claims the two said, “You look like a drug dealer. We have a report of a car like yours with a person who looks exactly like you and we are just wondering if there is cocaine in the car. Can we take a look?”

Suarez denied their request.

Sergeant Steve Woody, a spokesperson for the police department, says he has not talked with the officers and cannot confirm the person they may have been looking for. Woody also says they can’t confirm if the descriptions are accurate.

Suarez plans to file a complaint and has written an email to Mayor Frank Cownie, Chief of Police, Judy Bradshaw, and U.S Congressman Tom Latham.

The Des Moines Police Department says once a complaint is filed they will interview both Suarez and the officers and any other witnesses.

66 comments

  • thomasthecontender7

    This is an outrage. This sort of activity should not be tolerated. The police are to be servants of the people, not oppressors to harass them. When a minister cannot visit a local congregation to share the gospel without local police harassing them, something is seriously out of sorts. This sort of behavior should not be tolerated!

  • Tim Joiner

    For this incident to ever occur enrages me.
    It makes a man afraid to own a BMW.
    I stand with this poor preacher…it just ain’t right.

  • Jesse

    I dunno, seeing as how he had a similar description of someone that engaged that behavior with the same colour vehicle, it doesn’t look like racial profiling to me. It’s not like they pulled him over, cuffed him, and searched the vehicle. They waited until he parked, got out, and asked a few questions.

    • thomas

      Is your statement above a joke???????? The old “you look like a suspect we are looking for” has been used for 50yrs! WOW man get out of your house.

      • Richard Eisiminger

        “Suarez says the officers, Officer Herman and Officer Carter, told him they were looking for a man with dark hair driving a white BMW.” He has dark hair, he was driving a white BMW. Does not sound racially motivated.

    • Sue

      @Thomas –soo.. what….the police aren’t allowed to talk to people they believe fit the description of a someone they are looking for because it might offend that person??? How, exactly, do you expect the police to do their jobs if they are never allowed to talk to anyone?

      • Sue

        no one said he looked like a terrorist.
        I personally believe what the police meant was that he looked like a specific drug dealer that they were looking for, not just randomly looked ‘drug dealerish’.

    • Noneya

      Yes it was!! These same cops go around and harass black people too! They did it to my neighbor and are a bunch of punks!! Officer Carter is the biggest punk of all!!! He deserves to be fired for his racial crap!!! Followed him for 3 miles and said he didn’t stop correctly at a stop sign and asked him for his info and asked him the same exact questions and said he was someone they were looking for too. Is he a drug dealer, how he get that car (corvette) and stupid ass questions a cop has no business asking someone!!! He is a black person and one of the greatest people I have ever known!!! These cops need fired!!!

  • BV

    Reasonable suspicion was established. His vehicle and his appearance matched that of a suspected criminal, so they had grounds for the stop (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)). I suspect there is some embellishment on the part of Mr. Suarez, and I highly doubt the officers literally told him he looked like a drug dealer. My hunch is that he’s twisting what they actually told him into something that would make the news. Perhaps the police should just cease their criminal investigations though, just to make sure no one’s feelings are hurt. This is a garbage story and is not journalism.

  • Jenny

    I don’t see it as being racial profiling. He fit the physical description of the man they were looking for and was driving a similar car. It doesn’t sound like they were rude. When they said he looked like a drug dealer, it sounds like they were saying ‘you match the description of a known drug dealer we are looking for’, not ‘you got that ‘drug dealer’ look about you’. they may have even made the comment more politely then is being reported just to make the story more interesting. WHO DOES like to sensationalize a bit. Sounds like someone looking for attention. maybe a little fund raiser for the church. Although, if the congregation is so well off they are lending out BMW’s, it sounds like they should have plenty of money within the congregation.

  • The Phantom

    OK three questions they story did not answer as real questions are hard for WHO reporters to come up with. What was the name of the person who loaned him the car; could he be the suspected dealer the officers are looking for? He was visiting a church on the south side but where did the car pull over and the officers aproch the preacher? What was the name of the church and the reason he was visiting Des Moines? There are other questions invovling the the police but I am interested in the pastor first. As I tend to favor the officers side of the story at this point.

    • Sue

      Oh, and Jessica, the police probably didn’t know his last name when they pulled him over. If they ran the plates on the car, the owner’s name would have come back, not his. AND, his last name being Suarez really doesn’t mean anything anyway. I am of German descent. If I want to change my last name to Suarez, I can do so, legally. Still be blond, blue eyed, and Amercian (but of German heritage)

      • John

        No, I understand that. Sorry if my post sounded like that. Jessica commented that ‘he isn’t white, his last name is Suarez’ and mentioned that he speaks English. I just meant that a person’s last name doesn’t really tell you what they look like or what their heritage was. Even if I had a ‘Columbian sounding’ (sorry for the stereotyping, but, that seems to be what Jenny is doing) last name, I would still look the way I look.

  • jessica

    I understand tony suarez, I seen him preach in virginia and he is a amazing preacher with spirit that is beyond imagine. People need to understand that you can not accuse someone because they may meet the profile because in todays society it is messed up. Cops hurting the weak and accusing others for what they have not done. People can not judge because they weren’t the ones being asked questions because that was you in the car and a cop followed you when you were using someone else’s car I’m sure that you would feel the same as he did. By the way he isn’t white his last name is Suarez and just cause he speaks english doesn’t mean anything. Do your research before you come to judge a man.

    • RoccoB

      He is white ( Caucasian) or whatever. Hardly mestizo.
      Do your research on Columbia.
      The country as many other South American countries were settled by many European descendants over the years.
      Spanish, French, Italians, Germans….. Not just indigenous people there.

    • Sue

      They didn’t ACCUSE him of anything. They didn’t even pull him over. They simply stopped and asked him a few simple questions. Sorry, but, if it keeps people safe, I think it is ok for the police to talk to people. Jeepers, if they pull me over because a car similar to mine, being driven by a woman who looks similar to me was just involved in causing an accident or something like that, I think that is fine. I’m not going to take offense. They didn’t search him, they ASKED to look in the car, he refused. They went on. They didn’t say ‘well, all Columbians are drug dealers so, we figured we’d harass ya a little’ They just said he looked like a person of interest and was driving a similar car. Get over yourselves already and quit looking for a reason to get offended. Don’t break the law and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about if the police want to talk to you for a minute.

      • For the people by the people

        Not offended I am as white as white can be, but it is people like you who are allowing our government to take away basic rights. I have the right to drive down the road I paid for with my tax dollars as long as I have paid a fee and received a drivers liscense without being harrassed by pork..

      • Sue

        Would you like to forfeit the right to be protected by those police officers? Keep tying their hands so they can’t do their job.

      • Jenny

        Spoken from a privileged white woman that has NEVER been p rofilled or denied anything in life or treated differently because of ur skin color…so sit down and shut up…If my husband wasn’t racially p rofilled then why did the DMPD loose the case…bc the cops are flawed…quit sticking up for a situation that u have NEVER had to protect urself in…when ur skin is brown (not tanned) u are always a suspect…

      • Sue

        Jenny,
        Maybe, if the crime rate among those with brown skin wasn’t proportionately higher than the crime rate among those that AREN’T brown, racial profling never would have existed. Yet, we HAVE to hire so many ‘brown skinned’ people no matter whether they are the best qualified or not. There are scholarships that can ONLY be given to African Americans Or Mexican Americans (just what you want to be called says that being an American is less important to you then were your ancestors came from). Racism goes both ways. For some reason though, if a gang of young black, or brown, men, beat a white man to death screaming that it is ‘Kill Whitey Night’ that’s not racist, but, a white police officer pulling over a black man for speeding is, even if the man WAS speeding.
        Don’t talk to me about how ‘priveleged’ I am Jenny. You don’t know anything about me. I have no idea what you are talking about regarding your husband and his case with the DMPD so, how can I say why it was dropped? You sound like someone who uses race as an excuse. Get over it! You expect white people to treat you the same and disregard your skin color, UNLESS it benefits you to be treated differently!

      • Jenny

        You sound so ignorant right now…u can say wut u want because its ur opinion but its an ignorant one… GOD wants everyone to love each other no matter of what they look like…u must not have been taught that…U need Jesus…im going to pray for u and people like u…that was just so ignorant to say….and ur comment is exactly why black people and brown skinned people cannot let these situations go…u say ohh u all kill each other blah blah…do some research hun and find out why that is figure some stuff out before u go rambling about something u obviously know NOTHI NG about….everyoneb pray for Sue and her ignorance…

      • Jenny

        Oh and the case wasn’t dropped the officers lost…I wasn’t saying u knew the situation I was saying they are flawed…I guess I got u mad…hmm bitter much

      • Sue

        Jenny, I didn’t say anything about you all killing each other blah, blah, blah. Do a little research, the % of blacks in prison is higher than the % of blacks in the general population. that means they are committing crimes, or at least getting caught, at a higher rate than non-blacks. It’s a statistical fact. I did the research, i’m not ignorant.
        I don’t need you to pray for me. I found Jesus on my own, thank you. If you would like to pray for me, by all means do so. I will pray for you and YOUR racist attitude as well. You seem to believe that all whites are against all blacks. Even though no one wants to admit it, that is racist. You are judging me, assuming I am a racist, because you think I am white.
        Jenny, I think you like the victim mentality. You will always see people looking down on you whether they are or not. There is no convincing you that all white people are not racist pigs. Anyone who assumes all whites are racist is just as much a part of the problem as anyone who assumes all Columbians are drug dealers.
        President Obama has set up a program to help ONLY young black men of color. course, that’s not racist because it is whites that are being excluded.

      • Sue

        No, Jenny, I’m not mad. An ignorant woman like you isn’t worth that much effort from me.
        I find it interesting though that because your husband got picked up or pulled over, or whatever, and then was released, the entire DMPD is flawed. People do make mistakes, it happens. I also think it’s interesting how one minute you are going to pray for me because you think I need Jesus in my life, the next you are quite pleased with yourself because you think you made me mad. You go on and life your ‘poor little me, i’m not white’ life. Don’t try to make anything of yourself. Don’t seek out good people who don’t judge others on the basis of skin color. Keep being a racist against all white people and keep judging all those who where a uniform and swear to protect and serve as pigs. You’ll die old, bitter and alone. I on the other hand, am going to go out for lunch with some of my ‘brown’ friends! see ya!

      • Jenny

        Sorry u feel that way. I never said I was racist….I may seem racist because im responding to ur comments…u have no clue who I am and vice versa…those things u need to take up with congress im not the president im not the scholarship committee so I dont care..what I care about is getting u and others who think like u to see we are all the same just with different backgrounds…im not a victim nor do I think I am…I love all people I cant stand ignorant people… my walks in life have nothing to do with my skin color (which u have no clue of) my whole point in getting on here was basically for people to see u dont like it when I attack what u are so dont attack what other people are…plain and simple…ur mad I get it thats fine…I was trying to get under ur skin to see ur rogue colors…and the rainbow is now seen…have a blessed day and remember ur no better than the next and neither am I..

      • Jenny

        Its not just my husband its the things I see in life on the internet…etc..im not pleased that I made u mad but obviously u are… have a awesome lunch..I may run into u…all im saying to everyone on here that thinks im racist to whites or anyone im not everyone is flawed and because I pointed out the opposite of wut u were saying doesnt make me racist but in turn shows how bad social media is and how ones comments can be construed and could mean u are racist which is something I dont believe I called anyone on here yet everyone says I am…if standing up for wut u believe is considered racist…hmm I guess ill be that all day…

      • John

        Jenny, I had a wonderful lunch by the way, thank you.
        You are right, I ASSUMED you are not white because you referred to me as a ‘privileged white woman’ and the way I read your text, your husband was harassed by the police officers and you believed it to be because he was not white. Yes, I know that whites do marry non-whites, got no problem with that. It was that thought combined with the way you referred to me and your comment about always being a suspect when your skin is brown that made me think you were not white. I truly don’t care what color your skin is. I think good, and bad, people come in all colors.
        I apologize if I have offended. As you say, it is very easy on something like this to misconstrue someone’s comment.
        I believe there ARE definitely white people out there who are racist against non-whites. Some are police officers, I’m sure. that is very heartbreaking.
        I ALSO think there are non-whites out there that are racist against whites. I think that is just as heartbreaking.
        So, again, I apologize. I think we’ve both read each other wrong a little and maybe gotten a little caught up in the back and forth. maybe even gotten a little emotional. I think we are probably both pretty good women. We’d probably even get along just fine if we ever met.
        Have a wonderful day!

      • Sue

        Jenny,
        sorry, the response that came to you from ‘John’ was from Sue. I grabbed my husband’s iPad and didn’t change the log in. oops!

  • jon

    They said he looked like a drug dealer.what does that even have to do with race at all?racial profiling?please

    • For the people by the people

      Drug dealer profiling. Walter white was never pulled over because he looked like a drug dealer.

    • Jenny

      Because pastors/ministers are sometimes seeked out by family at a church or th pastor at that church to bring members in…or he may be on visiting someone here and wanted to speak the word…it doesn’t matter.

  • Tim Joiner

    Chris, he is a free man, free to travel wherever he wants.
    It is still allowed in the USA, I hope!

  • Tim Joiner

    I do feel if Pastors would drive kia cars and send their funds to missions, it would be much better.

  • Max G

    You have a guy that just left a gathering where lots of Mexican’s were & he is driving a BMW. Des Moines is a major stop for cocaine trafficking from Mexico. The police are just trying to get drugs of the streets. No offense, but you don’t see Mexican’s around here driving BMW’s.

    • John

      All I can say is that I hope if @Jenny, or @ForThePeople ever need the police, they are not there for you. They will be, they won’t care about YOUR prejudices. They will do their job to the best of their ability, you just wont’ deserve it.
      Jenny is mad because she is ‘brown’ and thinks people judge her by that. Yet, she is judging all police officers by the uniform they where. So, Jenny, are ‘Brown’ police officers racist too?

      • Jenny

        How do u know im brown?? Im not…ur smart…im all for the people getting justice and if I call the police I hope they do their job effectively and dont base it off the fact that I tan so much I look black or Hispanic…thats all :)

      • Jenny

        And yes they are :) not the answer u was looking for right…man maybe bc I have an open mind just sick of people basing everything on skin color… we all bleed red we all have organs so what really makes us different… Ignorant people I guess

      • John

        Nothing the police did was racist or based solely off of skin color. This man was driving a car that was believed to belong to a possible drug dealer. This man happened to match the physical description of that same suspected drug dealer.
        If I called the police and said a white guy, dark brown hair, in a new red dodge pickup just hit my car and drove away, and they saw a white guy, dark brown hair, in a new red dodge pickup in the area of the accident, they would probably stop that man and talk to him.

      • Jenny

        I agree its just annoying having everyone point the finger at race…to me its about whats right and not. I see a lot of people upset and saying cruel things (like u posted and not knowing who I am) but in time everyone will hopefully see the person and not their skin color

  • The Phantom

    This was the most messed up string of comments. Look, the officers ran the plates, the car came back to a person of interest. The officers waitied for the car to stop and see where and what it was doing. The drive apparently came close to the descriptioon of the person of interest. The officers approched and asked base questions as to who what where and when. It appears the pastor was not detained or cuffed. Once the pastor was found not to be the person they were looking for the officers left. Officers have the hardest job in the world they literlly play the part of officer, prosecutor judge and human being in the field. When you get a “break” on a ticket or are not arrested for a infraction it is because the officer does not think he can prove their case to the judge and jury or that the prosecutor will not uphold the charge or reduce it to a lessor charge anyway. They make these decisions every hour of everyday. Are ther bad cops yes, but the fact of the matter is that no one is reporting who the memeber of the church is that loaned him the car. I do not know the pastor and I hope he is a effective member of the clergy but think that there are more questions that I know will be investigated and made public. If the person of interest is the person who loaned the pastor the car, they now know they have the interest of the DMPD.

  • apostolic757

    Not every one likes being a policemans “B” not every one like to be bent over and being screwed.There is a way of doing things.Its called respect.

    • MIke

      what happened here that wasn’t respectful? don’t the police have the RESPONSIBILITY to talk to someone they believe to be a person of interest in a crime? as Phantom said, he wasn’t cuffed, he wasn’t taken in, he was detained, They didn’t even pull him over, they waited for him to stop and spoke to him for a few minutes. no one was ‘bent over and screwed’. How much more respectful would you ask the police to be and still expect them to be at all effective in their duties?? Sounds like @Apostolic757 has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

    • The Phantom

      APOSTOLIC757 – You seem angry – There is no proof that there was nothing but repest tduring the entire process. Apparently you have had some encounters with lawe enforcement that did not go your way.

  • apostolic757

    You look like a drug dealer! thats what you call respect? if you read some of the the rticle Pastor Suarez goes into more into what they said to him,They asked him to preach for them when he told him he was a preacher,and other stupid questions that no more the harassment,I do not have a chip on my shoulder i think it was the poilice who had a chip on there shoulder when Mr.Suarez told them they could not look in the car,not once but three times,I believe he said..Bottom line he denied them access to look in the car,i do not blame him,it wasn;t his car,.Plus it is his right,The police then should have just said ok and got a warrant.it should not have went any further then that.

    • Mike

      do you know that it went down that disrespectfully? Any chance at all the Mr. Suarez is embellishing because he is upset?

  • Rory Chance

    The Vehicle belonged to another pastor, not to a drug dealer. Tony is a friend of mine, attempting to search a vehicle and detaining a citizen for questioning without probable cause is illegal. The police are welcome to ask questions, the problem arises when someone feels, or are told they cannot walk away (essentially being detained) for an hour without probable cause. Police that do this give officers a bad name.

  • keepitreal

    Before you make any comments I suggest you Google this pastor. His track record is one of a guy who doesn’t like government or authority period. He fits the “profile” of a goofball not a drug dealer.

  • Abell20

    This was a perfectly lawful stop, no racial profiling done by the two officers. The description they were given matched who he was. My question is why did he refuse to let them look in the car???? Hmmm…

    • Abell20

      If they didn’t stop and talk with him after the description they had, then they wouldn’t have been doing their jobs. Good job to these two officers.

    • Jason

      He refused to let them look in the car because that is his absolute right under our Constitution. If the officers had enough PC to detain him and get a warrant, then they would have. If not, then they do not have any right to search the vehicle. The vehicle was loaned to him, he has no idea what could turn up. He absolutely did the right thing by refusing their request. They also absolutely did the right thing by asking access to search the vehicle. Aside from the preacher’s cries of foul, this stop and talk sounds fairly routine. I do not believe the cops profiled the guy, but I also have a feeling the description of the stop is being embellished. Memory is not always clear after a stressful incidence.

  • Jason

    When they asked him questions, he was not obliged to answer. He really has no complaint as they are not violating a law with the questioning. If he fit a description, I am sure that they can provide proof that such a description existed. That said, he is under no obligation to speak with them, and could have asked if he was being detained. If not, then simply advise the officers to have a good evening (or not) and walk the heck away. My wife is Colombian, so I am used to a small amount of harassment in airports, etc. Ironically, I have been pulled out of line at the airport more at random than she has. I don’t see a profiling case here.

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