Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that a police officer in Colorado has been hit with a lawsuit by a teenager who she detained at gunpoint last summer while on vacation. Officer Vanessa Schultz of Lakewood Police Department was off-duty in Jackson, Colorado when she saw Gerard Becerra hurrying to catch a bus around noon and assumed he had committed some crime. Schultz exited her vehicle, drew her gun, and ordered him to the ground.
Witnesses tried to convince her to stop and Becerra, then 17, urged her to leave him alone. Instead, she threatened to shoot him and held him at gunpoint until the police arrived and handcuffed Becerra. Schultz stated that she apprehended him for committing a felony, which of course was not the case.
Police released Becerra without any charges and said that Schultz had gone too far and that she could not have made an arrest in the first place because she was not in her jurisdiction.
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There is clearly a disturbing racial element in play in this case, and Schultz should not have presumed that a young Hispanic man running automatically meant he had broken the law. Becerra’s official complaint about the July 7th incident cites assault, battery, and false imprisonment as well as the violation of his civil rights.
“Mr. Becerra, a diminutive 17-year-old Hispanic resident, was late one morning and running to catch his bus after leaving the apartment where he lived with his parents. Without any more information, and without investigating any further, [Ms. Schultz] exited her vehicle, pulled out a pistol, and ordered Mr. Becerra to stop and get on the ground,” attorney Alex Freeburg states in the complaint.
The subsequent investigation into the event indicated that Schultz might be guilty of “felonious restraint” and aggravated assault but the special prosecutor declined to pursue charges and said that he believed she lacked “criminal intent or evil mind.”
The incident was understandably deeply distressing to Becerra.
“After being handcuffed in broad morning daylight and subsequently arrested outdoors, Mr. Becerra exhibited symptoms of severe anxiety including vomiting, hyperventilation, and distress from being held at gunpoint and threatened to be shot, along with the humiliation, disgrace and stigma that anyone would feel who experienced the same incident. Ms. Schultz’s conduct went beyond all bounds of decency and is considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the complaint reads.
While the exact amount being sought in damages is not listed, it is at least over $50,000.
Hopefully, Becerra achieves some justice through his new lawsuit. No one should have to face this kind of absurd overreach from the police, especially not when there’s a chance the entire thing is rooted in racist assumptions. Schultz should be ashamed and she owes Becerra much more than an apology.
Read the original story here.