Video depicting Baltimore County officer stopping shopper goes viral

A video showing a Baltimore County police officer stopping a man at a Kohl’s in Timonium to check his identity has gone viral following their encounter last week.

The video portrays John Holt, 24, in a tense discussion with Baltimore County Police Officer H.R. Persuhn at the department store. In the video, Persuhn asks Holt for his identification to verify whether there is a warrant out for Holt’s arrest.

In the video Holt, who is black, says Persuhn, who is white, is harassing him. The video, posted on Holt’s Facebook page and recorded by a woman who was with him, has been picked up by outlets including BET.

Although the publicized encounter was filmed June 7, a series of events dating to September 2017 led up to the incident, according to police and court records.

On Sept. 19, Persuhn responded to a call for shoplifting at the J.C. Penney in White Marsh Mall, Baltimore County police spokesman Shawn Vinson said. At that time, security officers told police Holt attempted to steal two shirts and a pair of shoes, Vinson said. After he left the store, Holt was confronted by security officers, and Holt returned the items, Vinson said.

He was not arrested or charged, but the J.C. Penney store later filed a report with Baltimore County police on Nov. 23. Holt was charged with theft of less than $1,000 in November, according to court documents.

He was scheduled to appear March 1 in District Court for Baltimore County, but it’s unclear if he did. A warrant for Holt’s arrest was issued March 3, but it was recalled March 8, Vinson said. Holt was then issued a criminal summons — which requires people to show up in court but does not call for their arrest — in May, according to court records. The summons was served May 16, the records shows.

His trial is scheduled for July 19, according to court documents.

Holt deferred comment to his attorney, whom he declined to name. A lawyer was not listed for Holt in court records.

Vinson said that Persuhn happened to be at the Timonium Kohl’s June 7 when he recognized Holt. Persuhn asked for Holt’s identification to find out if there was still a warrant out for his arrest.

A testy confrontation ensued. Holt asked Persuhn why he stopped him.

“Because I’ve dealt with you before,” Persuhn said.

Holt said Persuhn was harassing him.

“It’s not harassment, it’s called doing my job,” Persuhn said.

The original video on Holt’s Facebook page had been viewed more than 669,000 times as of Monday afternoon.

smeehan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

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