Scottsdale police chief admits ‘mistakes’ in wrongful hit-and-run arrest

Yessenia Garcia filed suit after her arrest for DUI and a hit-and-run crash in May 2022. The...
Yessenia Garcia filed suit after her wrongful arrest for DUI and a hit-and-run crash in May 2022. The officers involved violated department policy, according to the Scottsdale police chief.(AZ Family)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:13 AM MST
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) --Scottsdale police Chief Jeff Walther admitted mistakes were made and employees have been disciplined in the wrongful hit-and-run arrest of a woman in Scottsdale last May. Walther issued a statement on Tuesday morning, Jan. 11, stating some of the officers involved in the arrest of Yessenia Garcia violated department policy and “should have conducted a more thorough follow-up investigation.”

The police chief also added one officer received a 40-hour suspension and another received a 20-hour suspension, both unpaid. No officers were fired. Arizona’s Family has asked for the officers’ names, but the department did not provide that information.

Garcia was at a club with her boyfriend and friends on May 24 when a man jumped on the hood of her car and smashed the windshield. Garcia and her boyfriend left the club and, when they saw the damage, flagged down a bicycle officer. That officer and others were looking for a driver who was involved in a hit-and-run crash just 30 minutes before.

But instead of helping Garcia, her attorney said the officers arrested her for DUI and the hit-and-run crash. Garcia filed a civil rights suit against the city of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Police Department following the wrongful arrest.

Surveillance footage showed Garcia’s car was parked for hours and the man jumped on her windshield while she was inside the club. Garcia’s lawyer said she was also forced to remove her clothes and took her blood without probable cause.

Chief Walther provided an apology to Garica.

“We made some mistakes plain and simple, and the involved employees have been disciplined for those mistakes. We are not infallible and any expectation of such is unrealistic. I remain committed to maintaining a strong culture of accountability, transparency, and professionalism. When employees fall short of those standards, there are consequences. Those consequences will always be in line with the level of misconduct identified. In this case, I am confident in the investigation’s findings and that our employees did not demonstrate malice or ill intent. I know that does not change how the events unfolded that evening or how Ms. Garcia was affected, and for that she has my most sincere apologies.”

Garcia’s lawyer, Benjamin Taylor, issued the following statement, saying the punishments against the police officers should have been harsher.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that the Scottsdale Police Department’s unwarranted harassment of Ms. Garcia resulted in a mild reprimand for the officers involved. At this time, the lawsuit is still pending against the Scottsdale PD, and we are confident that a positive outcome in Ms. Garcia’s favor will prevail. We will continue to stand up and fight for fair treatment of all civilians.”

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