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Riverside County school police officer alleges racial discrimination

A police officer who went viral after video showed him dancing at a school is once again making moves, but this time in a Riverside County courtroom.

Zuriah McKnight made waves when a viral video showing off his dance moves for the students he protected and served. But now, McKnight has filed a civil lawsuit against the Val Verde Unified School District, alleging racial discrimination.

Ever since he joined the district police force in 2019, McKnight alleges, he has been the target of unfair and illegal practices by his superiors.

“Throughout my time as a peace officer, I confronted racial discrimination, retaliation and defamation,” McKnight said.

In a new complaint filed in Riverside County Superior Court, McKnight accuses Chief Mark Clark and Sgt. Christopher Stowell of making derogatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, allegedly saying Black people “think burning and looting is going to resolve anything.”

In another instance, McKnight said, the chief brought bagels to work, and when McKnight declined one, Clark mockingly asked him if he was just going to “eat fried chicken.”

“That badge that I wear is a sign of trust and commitment to uphold honor and integrity, so all I’ve asked for this whole process is that the Val Verde Police Department do the same thing,” McKnight said.

Clark told NBC4 that neither he nor the school district could comment on pending litigation, but he noted that McKnight remains an officer on his force. On X, the website formerly known as Twitter, the school police made several posts highlighting McKnight, including on his birthday and Black History Month.

McKnight’s attorneys also claim discrimination against female officers and, that when McKnight protested it while also voicing allegations of racial discrimination, he allegedly faced retaliation and threats to his employment.

In February, McKnight took a medical leave of absence. Since then, attorney Mika Hilaire said, multiple investigations have been launched against him, part of a “campaign of smearing his name and defamation.”

McKnight’s attorneys are hoping for a jury trial, which could possibly lead to a monetary reward.

“Mr. McKnight is not going to allow the district or the police dept to bully him and allow him to live in fear,” Hilaire said.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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