Vandalized Car Call Turns Into Nightmare
(AZ) – In May of 2020, Yessenia Garcia was out at a bar with her boyfriend and other friends. When she went out to her car to get her cigarettes, she saw that her car had been vandalized. The couple thought they were in luck when they saw a bike patrol officer. They stopped him to report the damage.
When more Scottsdale police arrived, Garcia was immediately read her Miranda rights. She was then accused by Sergeant Brian Steel of being the driver in a hit and run. He insisted that he knew exactly what had happened and refused to even consider that he was not correct. Sergeant Steel repeatedly called both Ms. Garcia and her boyfriend liars. Then the sergeant proceeded to lie saying they had witnesses who saw her and that she was on video. Police officers also insisted that she had broken glass on her shirt.
Ms. Garcia was arrested for the hit and run and for two counts of DUI. Though she was read her rights and stated she wanted to speak to an attorney, police officers refused to allow her to speak to one. Ms. Garcia was strip searched and a warrant for a blood draw was generated. “When she asked to see the warrant before placing the needle inside her arm, Officer Ben Roberson refused.”
A Joke of a Police Investigation
Approximately 30 minutes before Ms. Garcia made contact with the bike patrol officer, there had been a hit and run. The hit and run occurred about 1/3 of a mile away from where Ms. Garcia’s car was parked. When police officers saw the damage to Garcia’s car, they were sure she was the culprit. They refused to listen to or view any evidence that proved them wrong. A police officer even went across the street to view the business’s surveillance video. The surveillance video showed some random man damaging Ms. Garcia’s car. The police knew, before they arrested her, that someone had damaged her car while it was parked.
Regardless of having the surveillance video the officer wrote in his report,
“…video review was inconclusive to show if the vehicle had left and come back or remained there the entire time based on the constant pan of the camera…”
This is a flat out lie. According to ABC15.com,
The footage also shows her car never moves from the time of the stomp to Garcia arriving to find the damage more than a hour later.
With the camera’s pan, Garcia’s car is never out of view for more than 40 seconds.
Are the Scottsdale police really trying to say that Ms. Garcia left the parking lot, went a third of a mile away, hit a man, then returned and parked in the same spot, in less than 40 seconds? And don’t forget, that would be without being seen entering and exiting the vehicle. How ridiculous is that?
Few Consequences for Police Misconduct
ABC15 contacted other attorneys while doing their investigative report. The attorneys said there are several Scottsdale police officer who refuse to allow individuals to speak to an attorney. The law says you get to speak to an attorney “…unless it will unreasonably interfere with the investigation.” Those officers are abusing that provision and violating people’s rights.
When Ms. Garcia’s attorney sent the video to the police department, they dropped the charges. She filed a civil lawsuit against the Scottsdale Police Department. However, due to qualified immunity, attorneys told her it would be too hard to win. She has dropped her lawsuit.
Scottsdale Police Department Defends Bad Cops
ABC15 contacted the police department who continued to act as if Ms. Garcia was guilty of a hit and run. They said she was allowed to speak to an attorney. But that only happened after they interrogated her, strip searched her and did a blood draw. All the parts she needed and attorney for were already done. Then the police department said the charges were only dropped because the person who had been hit didn’t want to press charges.
Finally, after being sent the video of what really happened to Ms. Garcia’s car, a video they already had, they sent the below.
“Thank you for bringing that portion of the video to our attention. Obviously this underscores the fact that the case was never filed. The officers made probable cause decisions based on the totality of the evidence they had at the time of the investigation. This video does bring up questions that need to be answered. This incident occurred 14 months ago, however, our new Chief Jeff Walther takes these matters very seriously and has asked for a formal internal affairs investigation to fully review the incident.”
They are still defending what the officers did. They made a decision “based on the totality of the evidence.” I beg to differ. They most certainly did not. Sergeant Steel refused to even look at any evidence Ms. Garcia tried to direct them to or to view any surveillance video from the bar. He decided what had happened and was not going to let facts get in the way.
Internal Affairs Investigation
I’m glad that an internal affairs investigation is being conducted. But it’s hard for me to believe that they will get anything more than a light slap on the wrist. Sergeant Brian Steel deserves to be demoted at the very least. Being the senior officer on the scene, he bears the most responsibility for how it was handled. Yet, because he is brass, he will be given the most leniency. That’s just how it works in the vast majority of law enforcement agencies.