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12/23/2007
Arizona: Police Strand Tourist Family in Dangerous Neighborhood
A foreign motorist loses his car while visiting Mesa, Arizona for a family wedding.

George Gascon
A motorcycle cop seized the Hyundai belonging to a foreign motorist legally driving through Mesa, Arizona in what is being investigated as a racial profiling incident. Armando Rodriguez Morales, 59, his wife Olivia and two young girls were left holding their luggage, alone, in a crime-ridden area on Broadway Road even though they had done nothing wrong. Morales is a former Mormon Church bishop from Hermosillo, Mexico who had come up to Arizona, legally, to celebrate a wedding and visit with relatives, the East Valley Tribune reported.

Gilbert Police Officer Chad Wright claims that Morales was guilty of backing up illegally and cited a statute that is almost never used as the basis of a ticket. Wright refused to accept the valid Mexican driver's license that Morales presented. Wright then used the law that allows cars to be taken from unlicensed drivers to strand the family in a dangerous neighborhood. Mesa Police Chief George Gascon apologized to Bob Meyers, the father-in-law of Morales' son.

"Targeting a group of people based on their race for police attention in hopes of finding people here illegally is unconstitutional," Gascon wrote to Meyers. "That's why I've taken such a strong stand against having our police department engage in the enforcement of immigration related matters in the absence of other underlying criminal offenses."

Gascon filed a complaint with the Gilbert Police Department which has jurisdiction over the case. Morales' car was returned after the Mexican consulate confirmed the validity of his papers.

Source: Gilbert officer accused of racial profiling (East Valley Tribune (AZ), 12/22/2007)

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