Kevin Fitzpatrick most likely thought this would just be a routine traffic stop. Liz Vargas Juarbe probably was wondering just what it was she had done wrong. Both couldn’t have been further from the truth. What transpired in November 2014 has many questioning the dealings of the entire Tampa Police Department.
The incident has become a he said, she said argument over just what happened when Fitzpatrick pulled Vargas over. Officer Fitzpatrick claims that when he approached Vargs on the traffic stop, she immediately became argumentative. According to a NBC News Channel 8 report, Vargas was not getting her license and registration out fast enough. The entire incident was captured on Fitzpatrick’s dash cam.
According to Officer, the incident occurred right next to the school where Vargas dropped her child off. Vargas is quick to offer up her version of the story.
“You know I wasn’t offensive, I wasn’t hurting him, I wasn’t you know, hit him. I’m not a person like that. It (license and registration) was in my glove compartment, I was telling him, but he was actually screaming at me he didn’t give me a chance.”
According to Vargas’ attorney, Brett Szematowiczle, his client was not explained the reason why she was being arrested or thrown to the ground.
“She was never told, you’re being placed under arrest for X, Y, or Z, he just grabbed her arm, yanked it behind her, slammed her to the ground.”
This isn’t the only detail that Szematowiczel finds disturbing. All Tampa officers are required to have an operating dash cam. In this case, Szematowiczel asked for a copy of the video of the incident in question. He was told by the Tampa Police Department that the video of Fitzpatrick didn’t exist. It was only after a private investigator was hired that it was learned in April that the video did in fact exist. Vargas and her attorney did not have the video made available to them until June.
“When they are intentionally withholding evidence in a criminal prosecution, and you’re withholding that evidence, that doesn’t get much more serious.”
According to Szematowiczel, the police also tried to use the charges they had filed on his client as a bargaining chip.
“If Liz agreed to drop the internal affairs report, they’ll agree to drop the charges.”
Vargas did not drop the charges, but prosecutors did drop the charges of obstruction against her. The Tampa Police Department refused to comment to the media on the case because it is an ongoing investigation.
What do you think of the actions of Kevin Fitzpatrick? Unfortunately, his audio was not turned on so it is difficult to determine what Vargas might have said to anger him. What about the police department? Do changes need to be made so the public will trust them again?
[Photo by Tampa Police]