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Woman sues Pasco for 2009 run-in with police Megan Chang-Ngaruiya

May 14, 2012

Three years after it happened, Maria Davila-Marquez can’t shake the memory of the day two Pasco police officers handcuffed her and pushed her against a car — bruising her arm and burning her face on the hot car hood.

She can’t forget being charged with hindering the police even after it was determined she wasn’t the person police were looking for on May 21, 2009, and spending the next year and a half fighting those charges before they were dropped by a Pasco city prosecutor.

She can’t forget twice making complaints to the city during the past three years, only to have them rejected — the most recent one about 45 days ago.

The memories return to her in the form of nightmares, depression and anxiety, she told the Herald through her attorney, Vito de la Cruz, who interpreted for the Spanish-speaking Pasco resident.

“I have nightmare still when I dream they are following, chasing me,” Davila-Marquez said. “I want there to be justice. … I have lived with a lot of anguish, and I want justice to be done.”

Davila-Marquez now is hoping to find justice in the courts. She filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court in Richland alleging the city of Pasco and its police officers violated her civil rights by subjecting her to excessive force and an unreasonable seizure.

Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield told the Herald on Friday afternoon that he couldn’t comment on the case because the city hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit and he hadn’t read the complaint.

A representative for the Pasco Police Department did not respond to a message left by the Herald.

Court documents stated Davila-Marquez, 33, was walking in the midafternoon May 21, 2009, along Road 60 to pick up her children from a babysitter after getting off work at Tyson Foods.

While she was walking down the street, a police car screeched to a stop next to her, and an officer jumped out and stopped her.

The officer, Ryan Flanagan, tried questioning her, but although she’s a U.S. citizen, Davila-Marquez speaks limited English and didn’t understand, documents stated.

Moments later, Officer Zachary Fairley arrived and also confronted Davila-Marquez, who tried to explain she didn’t understand English well and reportedly started calling out for help.

“As Maria tried to convey her fear and confusion in Spanish, the officers became physical and confrontational,” de la Cruz said. “They handcuffed her and threw her down on the hood of Flanagan’s police car — a hood that was so hot, it burned the side of her face.”

Court documents said the officers had been responding to a complaint on nearby Taft Drive, where someone reported a teenage girl with long, dark, highlighted hair, wearing a gray shirt and jean shorts, was causing a disturbance.

Davila-Marquez was 30 at the time, was not wearing jean shorts and did not have highlights in her hair, the complaint stated.

The residents who called about the disturbance were brought to where Davila-Marquez was being held in the back of Flanagan’s patrol vehicle, and did not identify her as the teen, the complaint stated.

Davila-Marquez was released at the scene but charged with hindering police. The charges later were dropped, the complaint said.

Her attorney criticized the Pasco officers for failing to obtain an interpreter before using force on Davila-Marquez, and for turning her loose without asking if she needed medical treatment.

The babysitter who was watching Davila-Marquez’s children took her to get medical care and to file a complaint against the two Pasco officers later that day, he said.

“I don’t understand how officers could have mistaken my client for a teenager with highlighted hair, dressed in shorts, and it is unfathomable that they didn’t seek translation before they chose to use brute force,” de la Cruz said.

Davila-Marquez, who still works at Tyson, said she has spent the last three years living with fear and anxiety.

“Before, I used to consider (police) with the utmost respect because they are there to protect us,” she said. “Now I’m afraid whenever I see a patrol car.”

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