Armando Rodriguez-Morales got justice in court. And now, the 60-year-old Mexican citizen wants Gilbert police to pay.
Charges against Mexican motorist dropped
Morales, his wife and two family friends have filed a $75,000 notice of claims against the town stemming from a December traffic stop when they were left stranded on the side of the road in a high-crime area of Mesa after an officer had their car improperly towed.
The claim was filed May 15. Morales, who lives in Hermosillo, Mexico, couldn't be reached for comment.
Lawyers believe Morales could get more in the case, the claim states. However, to avoid the cost of litigation and court delays, they decided to settle for less. Morales is seeking $45,000 for himself and $10,000 each for the others.
On Dec. 14, while on holiday DUI patrol, officer Chad Wright pulled over Morales at a Mesa intersection for "illegal backing," meaning his vehicle rolled backward after stopping. Morales had a Mexican driver's license, and his vehicle had Sonora license plates. Wright decided the license and insurance papers were falsified and ordered the car towed. Both were later verified by the Mexican consulate.
Morales was visiting from Mexico for a wedding. He and the others were left stranded with their luggage near Broadway Road and Mesa Drive. Gilbert police later released the car and the San Tan justice of the peace dropped all charges.
The incident quickly caught the attention of Mesa Police Chief George Gascón after members of the Morales family sent a complaint to city officials. Gascón forwarded the complaint to Gilbert, prompting an internal investigation of Wright. The inquiry found Wright violated multiple department policies, including violations of abuse, loss of Morales' property and not reporting facts properly or accurately.
In the claim, lawyers said Wright stopped the car because he suspected the driver and occupants were illegal immigrants. "Officer Wright's conduct and statements on the night in question leave no doubt that his actions were racially motivated," the claim said.
Wright was cleared of the racial profiling charge. But after reviewing Wright's traffic stop records, the Tribune learned he ticketed Hispanic drivers at a rate nearly double the department average.
Wright, an eight-year veteran, was removed from traffic duty after the investigation and reassigned to patrol. He also was given a written warning.
"I do believe his extensive commitment to removing impaired drivers has narrowed his focus," Cmdr. Ken Buckland wrote in a report. "This I believe, ultimately led to his less than favorable decisions in this case."
Source: East Valley Tribune
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