Woman seeks $300K in wrongful arrest lawsuit against Scottsdale police

Aug 31, 2021, 3:00 PM

A screenshot of police body camera footage shows Scottsdale police questioning Yessenia Garcia on M...

A screenshot of police body camera footage shows Scottsdale police questioning Yessenia Garcia on May 24, 2020.

PHOENIX – A Valley woman is seeking at least $300,000 in a federal wrongful arrest lawsuit against the city of Scottsdale and its police department.

Yessenia Garcia alleges that she was arrested for DUI and hit-and-run on May 24, 2020, even though an officer had the chance to watch surveillance video that contained proof she wasn’t involved.

“I was arrested, forced to strip, humiliated, and my photo put all over the news because the police chose to ignore the evidence. … We shouldn’t have to fear false arrest, humiliation or even death for simply seeking help from the police,” Garcia said Tuesday in a press release.

Before she was arrested, Garcia had flagged down officers after leaving an Old Town Scottsdale night club and finding that the windshield of her car was broken out.

Police didn’t believe her story, even though multiple witnesses corroborated it and there was video evidence, and instead took her into custody for a hit-and-run that occurred nearby while she was in the club with friends.

“The video surveillance actually establishes conclusively that Garcia’s vehicle was not involved in the hit and run accident. Ms. Garcia’s vehicle is never out of frame for longer than 40 seconds, which would easily have been observed by Officer Fay after a few minutes of watching the constant, repeated pattern of the camera movement,” says the lawsuit, which was filed in May of this year.

“The distance from the parking space to the accident scene would have made it impossible for a driver to drive the vehicle from the parking space to the accident and return to park again in a 40-second time frame.”

The video also shows that Garcia’s car was damaged in the parking lot when an unknown vandal jumped on it, according to the lawsuit.

Police issued a press release about the arrest at the time, including Garcia’s mug shot, but later dropped the charges.

“Ms. Garcia should have never been arrested in the first place. By the time the charges were dropped, irreparable damage to Ms. Garcia’s reputation and the traumatizing situation had already happened,” Benjamin Taylor, a local civil rights attorney representing Garcia, said in the press release.

After ABC15 reported about Garcia’s plight earlier this month, Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther ordered his internal affairs unit to investigate the case and provide him with a report by Sept. 14.

“It is important to note that the only way to identify the facts of what occurred is through a comprehensive investigation, which I ordered immediately upon learning of this incident and the allegations,” Walther, who wasn’t chief at the time of Garcia’s arrest, said last week in a press release.

“I trust our investigation will outline the events in detail and I assure you the findings will be shared publicly.”

Walther said he also launched an internal review of the department’s “processes, policies and systems to identify improvements and/or training deficiencies.”

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Woman seeks $300K in wrongful arrest lawsuit against Scottsdale police