Woman reaches $100,000 settlement in lawsuit against Pasco Police Department

Tri-City HeraldJune 24, 2013 

— A Pasco woman has reached a $100,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed against the Pasco Police Department for a 2009 incident that she claims violated her civil rights.

The federal suit filed in May 2012 accused officers Ryan Flanagan and Zachary Fairley of racial profiling and using excessive force when they detained Maria Davila-Marquez as she walked home from work, said her attorney, Vito De la Cruz, with Tamaki Law. She was mistaken for a suspect in a disturbance.

The case was set to go to trial in September.

Davila-Marquez was pleased with the settlement and believes it shows the city of Pasco recognizes that her rights were violated, said Blaine Tamaki.

“(Davila-Marquez) thinks the sum of money reflects the fact that the Pasco Police Department wants to improve their treatment of Latinos in the future,” Tamaki said. “The settlement is an important step to preventing racial profiling.”

Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield took issue Monday with Tamaki’s characterization of the case as racial profiling. “I want to be clear — there was no racial profiling involved,” Crutchfield said.

Officers stopped Davila-Marquez in May 2009 near Road 60 because they said she fit the description of a teenage girl who was causing a disturbance in the area, both De la Cruz and Crutchfield said.

Davila-Marquez was 30 at the time and her clothes did not match the description, De la Cruz said. The only similarities between Davila-Marquez and the description of the teenager were that both were female and Hispanic.

Crutchfield responded that the officers were working on limited information provided by a dispatcher and erred on the side of inclusion when they arrested her.

Davila-Marquez — a naturalized citizen who didn’t speak English well — had trouble communicating with officers, who refused to let her speak with an interpreter, De la Cruz said. When officers couldn’t verify Davila-Marquez’s name in their computer system, they placed her in handcuffs.

The lawsuit claims Davila-Marquez arms were forced behind her back and her face was shoved onto the hot hood of a police car, causing second-degree burns and other injuries, De la Cruz said. She also was searched by the officers even though department policy prohibited male officers from searching females.

Crutchfield said handcuffing suspects with their hands behind their backs and bending them over a car hood is standard police procedure.

However, the officers made a mistake when they pressed her face against the metal on a hot day, Crutchfield said, adding they “learned their lesson” from the incident.

“Frankly, the settlement represents payment for her injuries and the pain and emotion associated with that,” Crutchfield said. “We are sorry for the physical pain she suffered. It’s a reasonably fair settlement that recognizes the harm caused by the accident.”

Both De la Cruz and Crutchfield said Davila-Marquez was released when the witness who called police about the disturbance came to the scene and told officers she was not the suspect, De la Cruz said.

Davila-Marquez was charged with hindering a police investigation, De la Cruz said. The charge was eventually dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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