A white man who was caught on camera telling a 15-year-old black girl that she doesn’t ‘deserve’ to be inside the upscale gated community they both live in in Florida has been placed on leave by the immigration authorities he works for.
Lee Jeffers, 60, moved to Wellington, Palm Beach County, five years ago to work as an analyst at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
On Sunday he was involved in a confrontation in the Grand Isles development in the village in southern Florida.
Five days later Joseph Edlow, Deputy Director of the office, said the department was aware of the video and Jeffers is on administrative leave.
Edlow described Jeffers’s role with the agency as ‘administrative in nature.’
He said: ‘He was not responsible for adjudicating cases for immigration benefits or status.’
Breonna Nelson-Hicks, 15, filmed the video with two of her friends outside her grandfather’s home, where she lives, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Her grandfather, Tony Nelson, on Friday met with Jeffers, the mayor of Wellington and two pastors.
‘I said, “Don’t expect me to forgive you,”‘ Nelson said he told Jeffers.
Nelson told Jeffers there was no excuse for his behavior, he said.
Jeffers told Nelson he just wanted to be heard.
Prior to the confrontation, Breonna, who is Black, and her two female friends, who are white, had been riding in a golf cart driven by two teenage boys, and crossed into the Grand Isles development through the gate from a similar community across the street.
The bizarre confrontation unfolded on Sunday in the Grand Isles development in Wellington, a village in Palm Beach County in southern Florida
Breonna says that Jeffers began following them in his car and tailgating closely, so the boys pulled the golf cart to the side to let him pass.
When he parked behind them and remained glowering at them, the two boys ditched the golf cart and ran away, Breonna says.
Breonna and her female friends walked the rest of the way to the house of her grandfather, 62-year-old Tony Walker, a 33-year resident of Wellington and member of one of the village’s first black families.
Breonna lives with her grandparents, on the same street as Jeffers.
According to Breonna, Jeffers followed the teens as they walked, and when they arrived at her grandfather’s he began yelling at them.
At that point the video begins.
‘Taking my picture, I really don’t care, because you don’t belong in this development,’ Jeffers is heard yelling.
The girls inform him that they live in the development, but decline to offer further information as he demands to know their names and addresses.
According to Breonna, Jeffers followed the teens as they walked, and when they arrived at her grandfather’s he began yelling at them
‘Why would we tell you any of this,’ the girl holding the cell phone is heard asking.
‘Ok, not a problem, I’m going to call the gate, and have you all arrested,’ Jeffers replies.
‘You do not deserve to be in here.’
Jeffers turned to the woman who lives across the street from the Nelsons. Hearing the commotion, she had come outside and stood at the foot of her driveway.
‘Seriously?’ Jeffers said to her. ‘I have to wait for five minutes while they’re strutting around in the road.’
Breonna suggested she go inside to get her grandfather, and as she walked to her front door, Jeffers appeared to begin to follow her.
‘Yeah, bring him out right now, bring him out right now,’ Jeffers said.
The neighbor can be heard behind him speaking to the teens: ‘Just don’t argue, guys,’ she said. ‘It’s not worth it.’
The teens thanked her and were met with more yells from Jeffers.
‘It is because you’re driving illegally,’ he said.
Breonna’s grandfather is seen confronting Lee Jeffers, an analyst with the immigration service
‘OK, but you’re coming at 15-year-olds,’ the girl holding the cellphone said.
‘So you’re going to hit us with a car?’ the other teen said.
‘Because you’re 15 years old?’ Jeffers said. ‘You could marry in Mississippi or Alabama.’
In fact, Mississippi is the only state where the general marriage age is 21, requiring parental consent to marry any younger. The marriage age is 18 in Alabama.
As the girls began to reply, Nelson came out of his house and is then heard speaking to Jeffers, who put up his hand as Nelson walked toward him.
‘Don’t stick your hand out,’ Nelson said. ‘Did you threaten a child?’
‘I did not threaten, I did not threaten a child,’ Jeffers said, lowering his hands and beginning to back away.
Breonna tells her grandfather that she has the incident on video, and he asks to see the video. That is where the recording stops.
The video clip was shared on Twitter on Sunday by Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy.
‘RETWEET until this man is identified! He harassed a group of black teens in a gated community in the affluent Village of Wellington, here in my county. According to him, ‘they didn’t belong in this development.’ According to the teens, he threatened to hit them w/ his car,’ Hardy wrote.
Jeffers’s identity was confirmed by his employers on Thursday.
In the statement, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesperson said the organization, which is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, holds its employees to high standards ‘regardless if they are on or off-duty.’
‘We are looking into the matter that has been reported in the press about this individual’s off-duty behavior,’ the spokesperson said.
‘The video is certainly disturbing, and we are working to get all available information in considering what action, if any, may be appropriate for the agency to take.’
On Friday he was suspended.
The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office told the Post that the man told deputies he had ‘almost hit the golf cart being driven by’ the teens.
‘We received two calls and when the deputies arrived, the male had already gone home,’ the department said.
‘Deputies did speak to the juveniles and made contact with the male next day. Based on both accounts no crime was committed.’