Sloppy Detective Work Implicates Wrong Woman
A nursing mother was separated from her baby, handcuffed, and abruptly taken
to jail and now, the state patrol and the Lakewood Police Department are investigating.
The mother told 7NEWS' John Ferrugia that she was terrified and humiliated
by police mistakes.
It all began when the woman and her husband were pulled over during a routine
"I doubled up kids in the back seat in belts. So they were restrained,
but not properly. But ... it was my fault for not having them in there properly,"
said father Ricky Archuleta.
Ricky expected a ticket but was surprised when the trooper told him he couldn't
"He ran my license. He came back and said it had been rescinded for an
unpaid traffic ticket. I knew I had paid the ticket," Ricky said.
The fact is, he had and the computer got it wrong. Then, the officer said Ricky's
wife, Mercedes, had to drive. While the trooper checked her license, she nursed
her baby in the front seat. Suddenly, the officer was at Ricky's door.
"He said, 'Take the baby from your wife.' I said, 'Why?' He goes, 'Take
the baby from your wife, now,'" Ricky said.
The officer didn't explain why he wanted Mercedes out of the car, the couple
"I took the baby off and started to cover up a little bit. When I started
to step out of the car, he just told me put my right arm in back of me,"
said Mercedes. "He grabbed my left arm, put it in back of me, cuffed me
and then I was thrown against the car. And my kids were crying."
"She got out of the car. He just kind of shoved her against there, and
her blouse is undone. And all my kids see her just up against (the car). Immediately,
they're like, 'What are they doing? What are they doing to Mom?'" Ricky
"I turned to him and said, 'Excuse me, why am I being arrested?' And he
goes, 'You need to be silent,'" Mercedes said.
"I'm in shock. The baby's screaming. The kids start crying and screaming
and I don't know what to do. I actually don't know what I said. I said something
and he just yelled in the car and said, 'You need to be silent,'" Ricky
"He said, 'There's a warrant for your arrest.' I said, 'No, there's a
mistake.' I said, 'There's no warrant for my arrest ... I've never been in trouble
for anything in my life,'" Mercedes said.
"He was rude. I think he was overzealous," Ricky said.
"I thought I was going to get sick. I felt like I was going to faint.
I was humiliated because I was there with this stranger and here I am with my
blouse undone and he didn't give me a chance to tie it up, and I was just so
worried for my baby," Mercedes said.
At the Jefferson County Jail, Mercedes was strip-searched and said it became
clear to officers that she didn't match the description of a suspect who had
tattoos and scars. She had neither.
"(The female officer) says, 'I know this isn't you.' And I said, 'Can
you call someone? Can they release me?' She said, 'Nope, I can't do that,'"
Mercedes and her husband were unaware of what got her there -- sloppy work
by the Lakewood Police Department. A detective had substituted the innocent
woman's information for a suspect with a lengthy police record.
Lakewood Division Chief Clarene Shelley said the detective made a big mistake.
She said the Lakewood detective was trying to identify a woman involved in a
domestic violence issue and when the detective pulled the name, Mercedes Archuleta,
on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's crime computer, the name came up as
an alias for Phyllis Rivera.
But instead of investigating whether Rivera was involved in the domestic violence
dispute, the detective issued a warrant for the phony name Rivera had been using
-- Mercedes Archuleta.
Shelley said the detectives never called Mercedes to ask her, 'Are you this
person?' and she never checked Mercedes' address to see if it matched the address
of the suspect.
What's more, the detective never pulled a photo of either person to verify
"She just pulled my name up because I was the only one she could find
about my age," Mercedes said.
While the police department has admitted its mistake and offered to meet with
the family to apologize personally, Mercedes has declined. She said she is embarrassed
"If (the detective) had to spend a day in jail like I did and be scared,
not knowing what's going to happen, and have her family crying and worried about
her, then I think she would understand where I'm coming from," Mercedes
The Lakewood officer involved has been reprimanded, but not suspended.
The Colorado State Patrol has begun an internal investigation of the conduct
and procedures of the trooper who made the arrest.
Meanwhile, Lakewood police and the city attorney have initiated steps to remove
the arrest and any mention of the innocent woman from public records.
But clearly that has not yet been successful. Mercedes' arrest is still listed
on the CBI database.