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POLICE STATE / MILITARY -
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Nursing Mother Handcuffed, Hauled Away During Traffic Stop

Posted in the database on Sunday, August 28th, 2005 @ 00:44:05 MST (1263 views)
from ABC7 News  

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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 traffic stop.

"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 even drive.

"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 He came back and said it had been rescinded for an unpaid traffic ticket.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 said.

"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 said.

"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 said.

"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 said.

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 identity.

"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 and humiliated.

"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 said.

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.



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