Diana Guerrero, a Las Cruces, New Mexico, woman, has been awarded $3 million after being sexually assaulted by Officer Michael Garcia during a ride-along. Guerrero was 17-years-old, and Garcia was 35 at the time.
As the Washington Post reports, attorneys for the City of Las Cruces and the defendant confirmed Wednesday that a settlement had been reached, and that moves were underway to dismiss the case in state district court.
“I am most happy and satisfied that this lawsuit brought to light a cesspool of sexual violence and harassment that exists in police departments across this country. I’m living proof that you can speak out against sexual violence and win justice,” said Guerrero. The Washington Post does not generally name the victims of sexual assault, but Guerrero, now 21, waived her rights and agreed for her name to be published.
Behind $3M settlement, the story of a police intern’s dreams shattered by sexual assault: For Diana Guerrero,… https://t.co/M4mrWSyqeD
— Soraya Garcia (@sorayagarcia85) March 24, 2016
Guerrero had accompanied Garcia to a crime scene. But instead of heading back to the station, Garcia had driven to an isolated neighborhood where he groped the young police officer, zipped down his pants, and forced Guerrero to touch his genitals. Garcia was assigned to the child abuse and sex crimes investigation unit and had worked there for 15 years.
Las Cruces Police Department graduates 10 cadets and one firefighter today from their law enforcement academy. pic.twitter.com/XNUkiNInIt
— ABC-7 News (@abc7breaking) March 18, 2016
“I could not comprehend … why me? What did I do wrong? I had good grades. I was a good kid, all I wanted was to help people and all of a sudden it happened to me, it never occurred to me that a person who earned a badge would do this to me or anybody else,” Guerrero said. All she ever wanted to be was a police officer, a job she likened to a super-hero, she but abandoned the dream after her nightmarish ordeal.
Diana Guerrero said she suffered from flashbacks and depression. She never told anyone what had happened, including members of her own family. In 2013, she ran into a police detective from the department who asked why she had quit the force. The truth quelled by years of shame and fear eventually came out.
An investigation was launched by the Las Cruces Police department and was facilitated by the FBI. Michael Garcia was handed a nine-year sentence in a federal prison. During an alleged taped confession, Garcia admitted that his police badge made him feel invincible. “The badge gets you the p***y and the p***y gets the badge.”
The police department received two unrelated complaints against Garcia when he was supervising Guerrero. Since his sentencing, he has admitted molesting a young family member and will serve an additional 11 years.
Garcia’s attorney, Seven Almanza, told the trial judge that the defendant had been sexually molested by his father when he was age 10, which resulted in psychological trauma making him to commit the same act against the young girl.
Diana Guerrero went on to sue the city saying that the police department encouraged a culture of inappropriate behavior and sexism because Garcia was never disciplined for his sexual misconduct.
Shannon Kennedy, Guerrero’s attorney said women were accepted targets of vulgar remarks. A female officer, whose call number was “704,” was allegedly called “7-0-whore.” Another whose initials had V.D. was called “venereal disease,” while another officer was known as “Spongebob.”
“There is a continuum of sexual assault that starts with sexual harassment by degrading women, by dehumanizing women and by calling them whores, b*****s or c***s,” Kennedy filed in her suit.
Guerrero’s case is only one in a teeming list of sexually assaulted women who have been betrayed by the badge. In over 12 months of investigating sexual misconduct in U.S. law enforcement more than 1,000 officers have lost their badges within a six year framework. The sexual crimes include sodomy, rape, child pornography, propositioning citizens for sex, and consensual but on-duty intercourse.
[Image via Shutterstock/Joe Techapanupreeda]