A 17-year-old Wyoming boy was running down the street to catch a bus when an off-duty cop from out of state pulled out her gun and ordered him to the ground last summer.
“Stay down!” yelled Vanessa Schultz, 32, a Lakewood police officer from Colorado who was vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming.
“I have a gun and will shoot!”
She continued holding him at gunpoint until Jackson police arrived which was when she told him the teen had committed an armed robbery.
But she was dead wrong and even Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith said “she crossed a certain line.”
And the teen, now 18, is suing.
According to the Jackson Hole New and Guide:
Mr. Becerra, a diminutive 17-year-old Hispanic resident, was late one morning and running to catch his bus after leaving the apartment where he lived with his parents,” attorney Alex Freeburg stated in the complaint. “Without any more information, and without investigating any further, [Ms. Schultz] exited her vehicle, pulled out a pistol, and ordered Mr. Becerra to stop and get on the ground.”
“While witnesses urged her to stop, and while Mr. Becerra pleaded with her, Ms. Schultz yelled ‘stay down’ and screamed ‘I have a gun and will shoot,’” the complaint states. “She continued to hold him at gunpoint in front of onlookers, relenting only after the police arrived and handcuffed Mr. Becerra under the erroneous impression that he had just committed a felony.”
“After being handcuffed in broad morning daylight and subsequently arrested outdoors, Mr. Becerra exhibited symptoms of severe anxiety including vomiting, hyperventilation, and distress from being held at gunpoint and threatened to be shot, along with the humiliation, disgrace and stigma that anyone would feel who experienced the same incident,” the complaint states. “Ms. Schultz’s conduct went beyond all bounds of decency and is considered atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”
“Ms. Schultz was almost gleeful and was clearly exhilarated as she spoke with Wyoming police without exhibiting any trace of contrition for her conduct or any hint of concern for Mr. Becerra’s wellbeing,” Freeburg wrote in the complaint. “Ms. Schultz’s conduct was malicious, intentional, or recklessly or callously indifferent to Mr. Becerra’s federally protected constitutional rights, so he is entitled to punitive damages.”
Although Schultz does not have the authority to make arrests outside her jurisdiction, she still has the Blue Privilege that allows her to avoid criminal charges for threatening to kill an innocent teen for missing his bus.
A man named Even Mendoza of Denver launched a petition to have Schultz removed as an officer from the Lakewood Police Department because “she is not qualified to serve the entire Lakewood community which includes a large, and growing community of people of color. Her actions suggest she is a threat to the people she is supposed to serve.”
Lakewood is just west of Denver.