DJ RocQuemore Simmons and his friend hadn’t even managed to dip their toes in the pool before a screaming Stephanie Sebby-Strempel was out of the water and in their faces, shoving DJ in the chest, telling the boys they “didn’t belong” and ordering them to leave.
“Get out! Get out! Get out! Now!” she yelled before threatening to involve the authorities. “There’s three numbers I can call: 9-1-1.”
There was no time for them to tell her or anyone else that they were guests of a neighborhood resident, no time to phone parents. But the 15-year-old did manage to pull out a cellphone camera, recording the belligerent woman and the poolside encounter that turned him into the latest victim of #LivingWhileBlack.
But the lens in Sebby-Strempel’s face seemed to anger her more. She struck the 15-year-old in the chest, then at least twice in the face as he walked toward the exit, police say. She called them “little punks” and used racial slurs.
The boys left without retaliating — even saying “Yes, ma’am” to Sebby-Strempel, who could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. But DJ’s parents were incensed when they saw the video. Family members posted it on Facebook, where it became instantly viral. Then they called the Dorchester County, South Carolina, sheriff’s office.
Investigators think the video and the witness statements were enough to charge the woman with third-degree assault. The police report deems it an “unprovoked assault” and says that Sebby-Strempel “is clearly the aggressor in the assault even going as far as to continue to assault the victim as he was walking away from her.”
Investigators say the woman was also the aggressor when they attempted to put her in handcuffs. She became “physically aggressive” when officers showed up at her home to arrest her. She pushed one into a wall, injuring his knees, the report says. Then she bit the other detective’s arm, breaking the skin.
She was ultimately arrested and released on $65,000 bail, the beginning of a court process that could stretch on for weeks or months.
But millions who saw the video online had already rendered judgment.
On Twitter, she had been deemed #PoolPatrolPaula, joining #PermitPatty and #BBQBecky in the sorority of women who have confronted black people who have done nothing wrong — and found themselves transformed into memes and Twitter jokes.
And somehow, word got to Rodan + Fields, a multilevel-marketing company that specializes in skin-care products and for which Sebby-Strempel worked on a contract basis.
“We do not condone violence of any kind and pride ourselves on embracing inclusion and acceptance of all,” the company said Thursday, adding that it was reaching out to Sebby-Strempel to “reiterate our corporate values.”
That conversation did not apparently go well for the South Carolina woman.
In a statement to The Washington Post, the company said it had terminated Sebby-Strempel’s contract and that she was an independent contractor, not an employee.
At a court bond hearing last week, her attorney said more information about what transpired would be forthcoming.
“With regard to (the assault on a minor charge), we’re not terribly concerned with it but will say there are certainly more than one side of the story on that charge,” said Sebby-Strempel’s legal representative to the bond court judge, according to Memphis, Tenn., NBC affiliate WMC Action News.
In court, DJ’s mother, Deanna RocQuemore, said the attack was racially motivated and “never should have happened.”
“No child including mine or anybody else’s ever, ever, deserves that type of abuse or treatment,” RocQuemore said, according to WMC Action News. “And to be struck not once, not twice, but three times by someone that is upset because of the color of someone’s skin, and they don’t belong at their swimming pool.”
Recent incidents of black people going about their lives and being unfairly targeted by suspicious or downright antagonistic white people who’ve criminalized innocuous actions have been widely shared on social media. The latest incident is part of an ever-expanding list of things you apparently shouldn’t do while black: going to the gym, shopping for underwear, couponing, even going to a seaside overlook to read a book about Christianity.
The most recent viral stories have involved children. In late June, someone called the police on 12-year-old Reggie Fields as he made a few extra summer vacation dollars by mowing a neighbor’s yard.
A few weeks before that, an 8-year-old selling cold water to passersby was approached by a white woman who pretended to call the police on her for selling without a permit. The girl was trying to help her family pay for a trip to Disneyland.
This post originally misidentified the city where WMC Action news is located. This post has been corrected and updated.