Guerrero v. Deane, et al.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has filed a civil rights action on behalf of a Latino family alleging that the Prince William County police forcibly entered their home without cause and used excessive force.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia on Nov. 20th, 2009 alleges that the raid is a blatant example of the ongoing discriminatory conduct by local police against Latinos in Prince William County.

The raid was conducted in the wake of a County resolution enacted in 2007 requiring Prince William County Police to enforce federal immigration law in this northern Virginia suburb by checking the legal status of all residents and pre-arrest suspects.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF had testified/submitted written testimony at a County Board of Supervisors hearing in July 2007, opposing the ordinance as pre-empted by federal law, and later filed a lawsuit with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on behalf of 16 local Latino residents and the Woodbridge Workers’ Committee challenging the resolution arguing that it would have a discriminatory impact against law-abiding Latino citizens.

The County, citing a plethora of negative publicity and budgetary financial constraints, subsequently determined that it lacked sufficient funding to implement the resolution and amended it in Spring 2008 by requiring police to check residency status only after the person had been arrested for a local or state crime.

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. Esperanza Guerrero answered the door and told the police officer that the relative did not live there.

The police officer nevertheless tried to force his way into the home. After four additional officers arrived, the police barged through the front door, dragged Esperanza Guerrero outside the house and arrested her.

They also pepper sprayed her husband, Juan Guerrero who was in the home and attempting to show the officers identification, causing him eye injuries requiring medical treatment.

The police also intimidated the grandmother and the Guerrero’s four minor children who remain traumatized by the incident. The police arrested Juan and Esperanza, who spent two nights in jail. A local court subsequently dismissed all criminal charges against the Guerreros at a preliminary hearing.

The complaint contends that Prince William County Police used excessive force when they entered the home of Juan and Esperanza Guerrero in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. In addition, the lawsuit alleges assault and battery, false arrest and false imprisonment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and seeks a declaratory judgment and money damages.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF is working with Howrey LLP and Patton Boggs LLP, two pre-eminent Washington, D.C. law firms on the case.

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