Teodulo Sanchez was driving home when an Arizona police officer pulled him over and threatened to “kill” or “shoot” him if he moved, according to a video of the incident captured last week. Immigration advocates have long charged that Arizona police officers indiscriminately pull over members of the Latino community, oftentimes using the anti-immigrant state law colloquially known as the “show me your papers” law, as justification.
In the video taken in Buckeye, Arizona and uploaded onto prominent undocumented activist Erika Andiola’s Facebook page, a police officer repeatedly asks Sanchez in Spanish if he has “armas,” or weapons. Sanchez says no. The officer tells Sanchez in Spanish to show his license and threatens, “if you do something, I will kill you right here. Do you understand me?” The officer says later, “If you move, I will shoot you right here. Do you understand me?” A rough English translation of the (sometimes inaudible) interaction provided by Latino Rebels is as follows:
OFFICER: Do you have a license?
MAN: Yes, sir.
OFFICER: Show me the license right now. If you do something, I will kill you right here. Do you understand me?
MAN: [Spanish here is a bit inaudible] Yes, I am recording you too.
OFFICER: Put your hands up here. You don’t have weapons in the car? Are you sure? Are there any in the car?
MAN: No, if you like, I can get out of the car.
OFFICER: What’s here then?
MAN: I come to work. These are my tools.
OFFICER: Just tools? Are you sure?
MAN: Am sure.
OFFICER: Ok. Don’t get out of the car. Stay there. If you move, I will shoot you right here. Do you understand me?
MAN: Yes. Do you want to check my ID (inaudible)?
OFFICER: Where are you coming from?
Late Sunday night, the Buckeye Police Department verified that the incident took place, but they insisted that the video showed a little more than a minute of “an approximate 20 minute stop” in which Sanchez did not comply with the officer’s requests and “continued making furtive movements in the vehicle.” The officer pulled Sanchez over because he “was observed to have committed a traffic violation.” The police said that they received “reliable information” that a Honda similar to the vehicle that Sanchez was driving was “allegedly carrying a large amount of illegal narcotics with a possible armed occupant.” The police report indicated that the driver of another car that they had been following was found to be armed with a weapon.
“The Buckeye Police Department acknowledges the officer used a poor choice of words, and does not condone the statement made during the stop,” according to a statement released half an hour before Sanchez met with the police on Sunday afternoon. The statement indicated that Sanchez was “out on bond pending an immigration status hearing, and does have a criminal history.” The police did not take further law enforcement action. According to a Dream Act Coalition press release, Sanchez is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who “was placed in deportation proceedings after a fake attorney filed the wrong immigration paperwork when he was petitioned by his U.S. Citizen father. He was detained in the past for several months in an Arizona detention center event though he has no criminal record.”
Sanchez’s wife Diana Durán told Latino Rebels that they had a longer video of the incident and that Sergeant Jason Weeks was “very sorry about what happened. They promised to investigate into the matter.”
Sanchez later told Buzzfeed that he was never told why he was stopped and that the officer pulled a gun at him. Sanchez said that he began recording the video so that “people could see what happens, they’re killing too many people in America for nothing these days.”
A statement released by Andiola’s organization DREAM Act Coalition stated, “It is not [acceptable] that our community has to put up with such violent behavior from our own law enforcement.”
Advocates have said that Arizona’s controversial immigration law is racially motivated and has been used as the basis for traffic stops to inquire individuals solely for their immigration status. Arizona police officers have disproportionately targeted people of color for investigation, enforcement, and imprisonment, reports have documented. Most of the key provisions of SB1070 have been struck down, but the Supreme Court has upheld the “show me your papers” provision, which allows local police to check for immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country without documents. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed its first lawsuit challenging the application of SB1070 in the case of a woman with pending legal status who was detained by local police for a traffic stop. She was later turned over to Border Patrol agents.