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Lawsuit against Scottsdale Police Department for bad arrest will continue

Yessenia Garcia
Posted at 9:24 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 00:24:23-04

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — A pair of Valley attorneys have agreed to represent a woman falsely accused of a hit-and-run accident by Scottsdale officers who overlooked clear evidence of her innocence.

Attorneys Ben Taylor and Anthony Ramirez announced during a press conference on Tuesday that they would pick up the lawsuit filed by Yessenia Garcia for her wrongful arrest last year.

“(Yesse) is a victim in this sad incident,” Taylor said.

RELATED: 'I want to clear my name': Woman speaks out after being falsely accused by Scottsdale police

He added, “This is wrong. This is a violation of her civil rights. You can't just state, ‘Ok, I have a person, let’s arrest them and throw them in jail.’”

Garcia was arrested on May 24, 2020 in the downtown area of Scottsdale.

While she was at two bars with friends, a random man jumped on the hood of her parked car and stomped on the windshield and smashed it, according to surveillance video from a nearby building.

Garcia’s then-boyfriend flagged down a bicycle officer when the couple retired to the vehicle. The pair didn’t know that police had responded to a hit-and-run 30 minutes earlier about 0.3 miles away.

Police were certain of Garcia’s guilt almost immediately after seeing the smashed windshield.

The first officer to speak to Garcia read her Miranda rights within 30 seconds.

At one point, Garcia asked if she was being detained and if she could speak to a lawyer.

Officer Ben Roberson told her she was being detained and then said, “No, you’re not entitled to one. You’re under investigation.”

RELATED: Did Scottsdale officers violate innocent woman’s right to an attorney?

“She didn’t do anything wrong,” Ramirez said. “She was the victim of a crime and ended up being victimized by the police she called to help her.”

Garcia’s defense attorney had filed a federal lawsuit as a placeholder earlier this year.

Until ABC15’s reporting on her case earlier this month, she was struggling to find a civil lawyer to continue the case because of distinct challenges — like qualified immunity — in suing police departments.

Garcia’s lawyers said they’re glad ABC15 looked into the arrest and made the information public.

“What we intend to do is pull back the curtain on what policing looks like when you have officers who shouldn’t have a badge,” said Ramirez, who was a police officer before becoming an attorney. “These cases happen more often than you think.”

Before Garcia was taken to the police station, officers reviewed the surveillance video and claimed it was “inconclusive” about whether Garcia’s car moved.

ABC15 obtained a copy of the video.

It clearly shows the random man stomping on Garcia’s windshield and causing visible damage that can be seen on the camera.

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.

The additional information about the video from ABC15 prompted Chief Jeff Walther to launch “a formal internal affairs investigation to fully review the incident.”

Walther said he expects the final report on his desk by September 14.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.