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Arizona deputy denies slamming pregnant woman

PHOENIX – Lawyers for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio mounted a defense
Wednesday against allegations that he and his deputies racially profile Latinos,
drawing testimony from an officer who denied slamming a pregnant Hispanic woman
stomach-first into her car during a traffic stop.

Deputy Francisco Gamboa testified at a trial aimed at settling the
discriminatory policing allegations that he never laid a hand on Lorena
Escamilla and never slammed her into her car during the September 2009 stop in
her driveway.

Escamilla says the deputy discriminated against her with an unjustified stop,
but Gamboa, who is Hispanic, said race played no part in his decision to pull
her over.

Gamboa said he made the stop because the light near Escamilla’s license plate
wasn’t working and he wanted to see what she was doing in an area known for drug
trafficking. “It’s probable cause to speak with the driver,” Gamboa said.

Escamilla’s baby was born healthy in 2010.

Arpaio has repeatedly denied charges that his department discriminates against
Latinos and says his deputies only make stops when they think a crime has been

But the group of Latinos who filed the civil lawsuit says that Maricopa County
sheriff’s deputies pull over some vehicles only to make immigration status

The plaintiffs aren’t seeking money. They instead want a declaration stating
that Arpaio’s office engages in discriminatory practices and an order requiring
the department to make policy changes.

The lawsuit marks the first case in which the sheriff’s office has been accused
of systematic racial profiling and will serve as a bellwether for a similar yet
broader civil rights lawsuit filed against Arpaio and his agency by the U.S.
Justice Department.

If Arpaio loses the case, he won’t face jail time or fines. If he wins, it will
undercut the upcoming federal case, which makes similar allegations.

Testimony is expected to wrap up Thursday. It’s not known when U.S. District
Judge Murray Snow will issue his decision.

In testimony last week, Escamilla said she was mistreated when she was pulled
over while driving home from night classes. She had described Gamboa’s demeanor
as hostile when she refused to agree to a search of her car and said she didn’t
break any traffic laws that would have caused her to get pulled over.

Eventually, a drug-sniffing dog was brought in to search her car, but no drugs
were found. She was cited for lacking proof of insurance and released, though
she disputed the ticket. Escamilla said she was not aware if her license plate
light had been out and was not ticketed for such a violation.

Gamboa characterized Escamilla’s behavior as erratic, saying she initially
failed to pull over once he turned on his sirens, wouldn’t listen to his
commands and kept asking why she was pulled over, even though he had already
told her.

Gamboa couldn’t recall why he called a drug dog to the scene and pointed out
that he called emergency workers from the Phoenix Fire Department to tend to
Escamilla because her breathing became heavier during the stop.


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