Domestic Disturbances: One Family’s Struggle with Police Brutality By Cindy Gomez-SchemppTweet
Isabel Escobedo and her family have been through a lot. She has survived abusive relationships, and the suicide of her sister, but those are not the traumas that have led to Isabel’s uncontrolled anxiety, depression, and fear of being killed. Isabel Escobedo lives in fear of the police.
It all started in the summer of 2014 when, according to her, the police brutally arrested and beat her 15 year old daughter because, they claimed, they smelled marijuana emanating from an open vehicle from which she was recovering a phone. The police dispatched 13 officers to arrest one 15 year old Afro-Mexican girl weighing around 115 lbs. They denied any wrongdoing in their handling of Isabel’s daughter’s case, and later dropped all the charges against her. See the story here:
But that was just the beginning of an ongoing nightmare for Isabel and her family. Shortly after her news story aired, the mobile home park owners evicted her stating in a letter to her that she had portrayed them [The mobile home park] negatively in the news. Isabel reported that she and her children and other family members began to experience harassment by police in Fargo. She recorded various police stops for minor traffic offenses, and even an incident in which Fargo police pointed three guns at innocent passengers and a three year old baby. http://www.thepeoplespressproject.org/cop-coverage/3-police-guns-and-a-baby
While Isabel was waiting for placement in a homeless shelter for her and her 5 children, she was put up at the Red Roof Inn in Fargo by a local non-profit agency. During the week, a joint task force between Fargo-Moorhead police executed a search warrant for a Moorhead fugitive, whom Isabel and her family did not know. The joint task force executed a “mistaken” SWAT raid on Isabel’s hotel room, precisely at the moment when Isabel had left the hotel to take her younger children to school, leaving only her 15 year old, recently traumatized daughter sleeping alone and wearing only a bra and panties.
The events which occurred during the SWAT raid were captured in a previously recorded interview from October 2015 which has never been aired, and which was broadcast for the first time along with this story on KPPP-LP Fargo-Moorhead radio 88.1 FM. Listen to that interview here: http://kpppfm.com/live-shows/a-mexican-crossing-lines-domestic-disturbances/
Isabel said that once the ordeal was over she was able to recognize some of the officers involved in the raid, whom she had seen around the hotel in the days prior to the raid, indicating to her that police had plenty of time to assess who came in and out of the hotel room. She also stated that if the police had really been looking for a Moorhead male fugitive, they needed only to have asked the hotel staff and to review the hotel’s surveillance videos for them to have confirmed exactly who entered and exited the hotel room. But, instead, she says police raided the room, dragged a terrified half naked 15 year old girl into the hallway, handcuffed and humiliated her, and proceeded to use their SWAT robot to do a sweep of the empty room.
When Isabel returned to the hotel after dropping off her kids at school, she says that men dressed in army garb surrounded her with high powered military style weapons and barked orders for her to exit the vehicle. Isabel reported being handcuffed and forced to wait while the other police raided her hotel room, Isabel insisted to police that she was scared for her daughter who was alone, undressed, and whom she knew would be terrified of the SWAT raid. She says police ignored her and refused to answer her questions or explain what what was happening. After finding nothing, Isabel says that police released her and her daughter and explained that they were executing a warrant, without an apology for terrifying and re-traumatizing the family. Isabel reported that she and her family became increasingly fearful of police contact after the raid. Eventually, she moved her family to Moorhead, MN, just across the river from Fargo, ND thinking that she would be safer.
Unfortunately, according to Isabel, the harassment continued. Isabel claimed, and this reporter witnessed and filmed the tail end of, an encounter where Fargo police followed Isabel into Moorhead, detained and questioned her, and then released her without incident. Moorhead police were also present. This occurred even after Isabel moved her family out of North Dakota.
Now Isabel lives in fear of the Fargo and Moorhead police. Her most recent encounter involved a prank 911 call made to police on April 4th, 2016. Just days before another of Isabel’s daughter’s was to give birth, some kids who have allegedly been bullying her daughter apparently sent Isabel some harassing messages. Isabel stated that shortly after she received the messages, police showed up at her door saying that they had received a 911 call from her pregnant daughter reporting a domestic disturbance being perpetrated against Isabel in the home. Isabel, who has taken “Know Your Rights” training classes, stated that she did not allow the police in her home, instead stepping out onto her porch and closing her door behind her. She says that she asserted to police that her pregnant daughter was at the grocery store, could not have been the 911 caller, and that the only other person in her home was a girlfriend visiting from out of town.
According to Isabel, three officers were dispatched to her home and they told her they were required to ensure that she was OK and needed to search her home. Again, Isabel stated she informed police that she was not in any danger, and would not authorize any officer in her home without a warrant. At that point, Isabel says the Moorhead police officer whose name Isabel recalls being M. Lambert with badge number #319, became agitated and without warning grabbed her by the arm, twisted it behind her back in a way she described which attempted to push her wrists against the back of her head. She also reported the officer rammed her face into the wall with such force that he split her lip.
Then, they proceeded to handcuff her and put her in the back of their squad car. Against her express wishes, Isabel says police went into her home and conducted a warrantless search. Her visiting friend was able to record part of the encounter. Her video recording of the incident can be found here:
While sitting in the back of the squad car, handcuffed and bleeding, Isabelle says she was originally told she would be arrested for obstructing an investigation and resisting arrest. However, after finding no male perpetrator of a domestic disturbance, Isabel recounted that police simply released her without any charges or an apology. She was treated and released from Essentia Emergency Care for mandibular pain, right shoulder pain, and facial contusions. In addition, Isabel reports that the encounter has aggravated her depression and anxiety. She says she lives in fear of the next time she encounters the police. A local women’s activist has partnered with the People’s Press Project to set up Isabel Legal Fund account calling for the community to support Isabel and her family by making a donation to help her secure legal counsel to defend her family from police misconduct and harassment. You can find the link to donate here: http://bit.ly/1QiMJJd
Cindy Gomez-Schempp is the founder of Mexi-Can.org. She is also the Co-founder of PPP, a media justice non-profit. She’s an author, writer, and implements new media/social media outreach and web optimization married with translating and cultural consulting services. Questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org