PW County Police Brutality Case Press Conference

May 26, 2010
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org


Washington, DC, May 26— Patton Boggs LLP and LatinoJustice PRLDEF are planning to meet with Justice Department officials on Thursday to detail what they believe is a pattern of abuse and harassment of minorities living in Prince William County.

A press conference is planned for 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 27th at the offices of Patton Boggs, 2550 M Street, NW, to discuss a case alleging several Prince William County police officers assaulted and used excessive force in the process of serving a routine truancy summons.

The press conference comes as the Justice Department considers a court challenge to a new Arizona law that would require state law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the United States illegally provided they don’t question a suspect based on that issue alone.

Latino activists have reported several racial profiling charges by Prince William County police since the county approved a similar resolution in July 2007. The resolution empowered police to act as immigration officials much like the new controversial immigration law in Arizona, according to Cesar Perales, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“Three years ago Prince William County passed a resolution similar to Arizona’s recent immigration law. Since then we have seen the negative affects such laws can have on Latinos: police officers abandon community policing duties, families become scared to report crimes, and tension and hatred grows among neighbors,” said Mr. Perales. “The DOJ must act on its responsibility to protect the Latino residents of Prince William County, Arizona, and all of the other localities and states in the nation that are considering passing similar laws and ordinances.”

Christina Guerola Sarchio, a partner at Patton Boggs and lead counsel in the case, said there are at least four other examples of police using excessive force in Prince William County.

In this particular case, the police used the “pretext of a truancy summons to find out more about this Latino family,” Ms. Sarchio said. “In order to get this Latino family in line, they used excessive force and drummed up charges against the parents that were eventually thrown out. This incident still haunts the family and even youngest child, now 7, has a great fear of the police.”

Details of the Prince William County Case:

On November 24, 2007, a Prince William County officer went to Juan and Esperanza Guerrero’s home in Prince William County to serve a routine truancy summons on a relative that did not live in the home, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Esperanza Guerrero told the officer that the relative did not live there, but he allegedly forced his way in the home. After four additional officers arrived, the police barged through the front door, dragged Esperanza Guerrero outside the house and arrested her. They pepper sprayed her husband, Juan Guerrero, allegedly causing eye injuries and intimidated the grandmother as their four children aged 4 to 14 years old watched.

The police arrested Juan Guerrero and released him that same night. Esperanza Guerrero was held for three days. The court dismissed all criminal charges against the parents during trial a few months later, finding that “the entry [by Officer Moore into the Guerrero home] was unlawful.”

The Guerreros filed a civil lawsuit against the officers in November 2009. They are represented by LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Patton Boggs LLP and Howrey LLP.

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