Who Is Darian Balcom? New Details On The Woman Who Claims She Was Arrested For Not Supporting President Trump

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Who Is Darian Balcom? New Details On The Woman Who Claims She Was Arrested For Not Supporting President Trump

A woman has brought suit against the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, claiming they violated her civil rights during an arrest in 2017. She claims that the officer arrested her not for any crime, but for not agreeing with him about Donald Trump. Darian Balcom claims that she was feeding stray animals in a building owned by a friend of hers when police arrived to investigate her presence there. She and a friend explained what they were doing and had a short, but contentious conversation with the arresting officer, Gabe Figueroa, who was investigating what she was doing in the building. According to court filings, Balcom objected when the officer called her “sweetheart” and that led to him arresting her on the grounds that she “can’t sass the police.” He also questioned whether or not she supported Donald Trump before taking her in on burglary and trespassing charges. Her friend, who was not similarly questioned, was not arrested. The charges against Balcom were later dropped.

Who is Darian Balcom and what happened between her and a Pittsburgh police officer? Read on for more.

1. Feeding pets

Balcom is a landlord and property manager in the Pittsburgh area. In December 2017, she and her friend Matthew Grebner went to a vacant building owned by someone Balcom knows. She was there as a favor to the owner, who had asked her to rescue some animals who had been left behind by a previous tenant. Balcom was there to feed the dogs and she also discovered cats and was in the process of removing them from the building and taking them across the street to her own property when someone must have called police. Balcom told KDKA: “Suddenly there were many police officers in my building. Apparently [the police] were told there was a burglary in process.”

The lawsuit is on First Amendment grounds.

2. Sweetheart

Balcom was able to prove that she was permitted to be in the building. In her discussion with Officer Gabriel Figueroa, CBS reports, he called her sweetheart. She objected to the endearment and told her so, recounting: “I responded, ‘don’t call me sweetheart’ because I thought it was just being very disrespectful,” said Balcom.

Balcom is receiving social media support.

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3. Political questions

CBS News reports that, after being asked not to use familiar terms to refer to Balcom, Officer Figueroa starting making political comments to Balcom, though it seems he didn’t similarly question Grebner. Balcom says, “Officer Figueroa said to me, ‘you probably don’t like Trump, do you?’ And I said, ‘no I don’t,’ and he said, ‘I’m glad he won the election.’ And then right after that he put me under arrest.” Needless to say, there is no law in the state of Pennsylvania that prohibits a person from expressing non-support for an elected official.

Voting choices are not grounds for arrest.

4. Sassing police

Matthew Grebner was not arrested at the same time as Balcom, despite being present and helping her with the pet rescue. According to CBS News, Grebner says Figueroa explained the situation to him, saying “He said she hadn’t really done anything wrong but she sassed the police. ‘She was just trying to help out animals, but she’s a bleeding heart liberal. She can’t sass the police so she’s getting arrested.’” While there are laws against resisting arrest, there is no specific statute prohibiting “sassing police” in Pennsylvania. In order to be charged with resisting arrest, a person must act “With the intent of preventing a public servant from effecting a lawful arrest or discharging any other duty, the person creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to the public servant or anyone else, or employs means justifying or requiring substantial force to overcome the resistance.” Balcom was not charged with resisting arrest at any time.

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Sassing cops is not a crime.

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5. Lawsuit

The only charges filed against Balcom after her arrest were felony counts of burglary and criminal trespassing, as well as theft by unlawful taking, a misdemeanor. The charges were ultimately dropped, according to the lawsuit. Now Balcom is suing the city of Pittsburgh, Officer Figueroa and an unnamed second officer, according to the New York Post, saying her constitutional right to “criticize the police and express political views and affiliations” was violated. The website The Heavy reports that Balcom’s attorney Margaret Coleman says: “She disagreed with the political beliefs of a police officer and she refused to say she supported Donald trump [sic], and that can’t happen in America. And we want to send a message.” 

The city of Pittsburgh has no comment on the lawsuit, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.