| Fighting Crime in the Mission: Racial Profiling & Police Misconduct May Be Part of the Package
By Pedro Tuyub, Mission Dispatch Publisher Mar 20, 2009
On the evening of Friday, Jan 30, I was detained and later taken into custody by two plainclothes police officers while I was walking along 16th Street. During this ordeal, I was handcuffed, insulted, and generally treated as a criminal for nearly 8 hours without being allowed to contact my family or anyone else. All of this took place without ANY explanation or justification then or now as to why this occurred. Many friends tell me I was picked up for “Walking While Mexican.”
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Around 7 that evening, I was contacted by a childhood friend who is from the same town in Mexico. He is selling a house down there and I had expressed some interested in buying it. We decided to go to the El Tin-Tan Bar and Restaurant on 16th Street to discuss the matter over dinner and a few drinks. That restaurant is frequented by many other people from our area of Mexico, the Yucatan, and so we both encountered many friends we had not seen in awhile.
It was around midnight when we decided to leave the bar. My friend went outside while I had a few last words with friends. When I went out the door, I noticed some sort of commotion on the curb and in the street — there was a small crowd gathered and several police cars were pulled up in the street. Discretion being the better part of valor, I stayed close to the buildings as I walked east in the direction of Mission Street. My friend had apparently decided to do the same as he stood waiting for me just across the little alley street called Hoff.
I had one foot in the air to start across Hoff when a sedan zoomed in nearly hitting me and blocking my path. A Caucasian man, whom I later learned to be Officer Canning, got out of the car and told me to remain where I was. He then asked for my ID — I gave him both my California Driver’s License and Mexican ID — which he took without further ado and then ran over to where the crowd was still gathered about 50 feet away. His partner, whom I came to know as Officer Villaruel, stood near me during this time. No significant words were exchanged at that time between any of the three of us.
Canning returned after some minutes and without further conversation ordered me to put my hands behind my back. He then handcuffed me and again left me in the presence of Officer Villaruel. After a few minutes, I mentioned to him that his partner, still had my IDs but was told to shut up. I also asked why I was being detained and was again told to shut up; I did. A police van arrived and I was ordered inside only to find that others were already inside including someone lying on the floor seemingly unconscious or delirious. We were taken to Mission Station and placed in what I assume is called a 'holding room' as the walls are equipped with horizontal railings to which our handcuffs were secured.
The delirious guy had to be dragged in. Fortunately he was attached to the wall opposite to me, as in the adjacent space to him was an apparent gang member. Within a few minutes the gangster punched the delirious one in the face causing a broken nose and other injuries that required his transportation to the hospital. Apparently the cops had only fastened one of the gangster's arms so he was easily able to strike anyone near him; fortunately I was on the opposite side of the room and out of his reach.
Time moves pretty slowly when you are in a brightly lit room in the early hours of the morning, secured to a wall with handcuffs. The other guys from the van were also in the room, but I did not know them. On several occasions I could see Officer Canning through the door and on several occasions asked him, his partner, and other available officers about the return of my identification documents. 'Shut up' was the invariable response except once when I was told that the loss of my IDs was going to be “the least of your problems.”
Some officers came in to take our pictures. They left. Then they came back to ask us for our names and addresses. I dared to say again that they had my IDs. No response. They left.
At about 5:30-6 a.m., I asked the officer on guard — who had been there since I was brought in that my hands had become swollen from the handcuffs and that the circulation seemed to be cut off to my hands. He apparently took pity on me and removed the handcuffs. He asked me to move to the bench in front (west side) and handcuffed me by one hand, the right hand. Then he asked me if I had a weapon or any thing that could cause fire. I answered, “No. I have my wallet, my keys and my cell phone.” He said, “Give me your cell phone.” Then I begged, “Can you please call my wife to tell her where I am so she does not worry?” He turned to me and said, “Listen, I do not care about what you tell your family or your friends, you are here because you were drunk in public. You will be out of here in 1 hour and a half.” This was the first time anyone had said anything to me about why I was in custody. (I deny that I was drunk when I was walking on 16th Street and I certainly wasn't drunk 6 hours later.) I said nothing because I did not want to do or say anything to interfere with his promise of release.
Around 6:30 a.m., an older officer came on duty and tried to make some sense out of the paperwork he had inherited from the evening shift. The names, addresses, and belongings were all confused. Eventually I was given a receipt to sign that already had another person's signature on it. I was told to simply sign over the other name. By now, I could not even imagine what my family must have been going through. I have never been out of the house past midnight without answering my cell phone and now it was well past dawn.
(On my way back home, I listened to my messages. Several from my daughter: “Please papi answer your phone. Where are you? Please answer your phone." My other son calling at 3:30 a.m.: "Papi, I am going out to look for you.") He did with my wife. Everybody was awake when I finally came back home. They know what happened to me, now. I am honest with them.
Eventually the paperwork was finished and a female officer took me to be released. At first I objected that although my cell phone had been given back to me, I had never received my two IDs and they are very important for me or any Mexican to have. I told her that Officer Canning had taken them from me about 8 hours before. In a few minutes she returned to tell me that they were apparently missing/lost but I could inquire later. I decided to get out of there and was released about 7:45 a.m. nearly 8 hours after I had first been stopped on 16th Street.
Subsequent inquiries at Mission Station with various personnel, including a meeting with and telephone conversations with the Mission Station Commanding Officer have failed to either produce my confiscated documents or result in any explanation for either my original detention or my remaining apparently un-arrested or uncharged but nonetheless held incommunicado for nearly 8 hours.
Is this the price to pay for a safer Mission? No accountability? Everybody is fair game, if you look Latino?
I refuse to believe this.
The Mission Station has denied any racial profiling in the Mission.
If you believe you have been a victim of police misconduct, please contact the Office of Citizen’s Complaints at (415) 241-7711 or email@example.com.
The Mission Dispatch would also like to hear about your encounter stories with law enforcement officers. You can send your comments to Pedro Tuyub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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