In 2009, a 30-year old Hispanic woman, Maria Davila-Marquez was driving her vehicle in Pasco, Washington. Police officers in the area were looking for a teenaged Hispanic girl who was creating a disturbance. Officer Ryan Flanagan and officer Zachary Fairley saw Davila and stopped her, even though she was about twice the age of the teenager they were really looking for. Davila couldn’t speak English very well and neither officer could speak Spanish. So the officers handcuffed her, slammed her against the car hood, and held her there until she received second-degree burns from the engine heat, and searched her even though department policy required them to call a female officer to do that.
Although Davila had requested an interpreter, the officers refused to call one. Then the complainant showed up and said that Davila was not the teenager (duh), so the officers charged her with interfering with public duties. So Davila sued the officers, the chief, and the city. She wasn’t able to show a pattern or policy of misconduct, so the court dismissed with prejudice the case against the chief and the city, see Davila-Marquez v. City of Pasco, No. CV-12-5059-LRS, 2103 WL 1136658 (E.D. Wash. Mar. 18, 2013). The case against the officers remained, however and rather than go to trial, the city settled for $100,000.
In an article at the time, Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said that although Davila did not meet the description of a teenager, the officers erred on the side of inclusion when they arrested her. Crutchfield is lucky that Pasco had already settled. In the United States, we don’t err on the side of inclusion when arresting someone. We either have probable cause, or we don’t.
AS TO THE CURRENT INVESTIGATION:
This may also get more interesting. Coroner Dan Blasdel is considering calling an inquest to make the determination on the shooting. This isn’t used often, but the evidence would be put in front of a six-member jury, who would decide the issue. Note that in Washington, the inquest does not determine culpability for the death.