Forceful police intervention that went viral on social media under investigation
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Puerto Rico Police Bureau Commissioner Henry Escalera Rivera said Monday that a police intervention that circulated on social media platforms in which Juan Murcia was arrested during gubernatorial hopeful Pedro Pierluisi’s political caravan in Fajardo is under investigation by the Use of Force Investigations Division.
As part of the investigation, Escalera Rivera said Murcia was under arrest for allegedly overrunning an intersection controlled by the Police and that the department had a previous work plan in place with the municipality’s police force. As the citizen was placed under arrest, the Police proceeded to consult the case with an attorney.
“Just like every case, both versions [of the intervention], that of the arrestee and that of the police agents who intervened in the incident, will be heard,” Escalera Rivera said. “In addition, the citizen has the right to request an administrative investigation, if it is believed that a right was violated during the event.”
Witness exposes incongruencies in police protocol Yvette Nuñez, a passenger in Murcia’s car who recorded the police intervention with her cell phone and posted it on Facebook, said in an interview with Radio Isla 1320 that Murcia was arrested for obstruction of justice, and that agents did not ask for Murcia’s driver’s license during the intervention. Instead, she said, as many as five agents tried to drag her, her daughter and Murcia out of the car after they screamed at Pedro Pierluisi’s political caravan.
“Not at any moment did the police stop us or anything else,” Nuñez said. “They intervened with us after we screamed at the caravan. There was no way that we could move as the car was turned off. We were not harming or threatening anyone.”
“They never asked for identification,” she added. “If they alleged there was a traffic violation, they would have asked for his driver’s license and fined him. But that never happened, they just tried to drag us out of our car.”
Nuñez also said that in the agents’ efforts to detain Murcia, they hit her 12-year-old daughter multiple times and tried to pull her out of the vehicle from the window.
“One of the officers who opened our door, he tried to get in the back of the vehicle. … In that effort, he hit my daughter on various occasions as he also tried to get Juan David [Murcia] and myself out,” she said. “At that point, I had an officer close to my window, there was another on my daughter’s side and there were two or three on the driver’s side of the vehicle. All of them were trying to get inside the car and it was at that moment that my daughter ended up being hit. It was completely unnecessary.”
At the same time, Murcia said what he and his passengers went through should have never happened. He also questioned the type of mental training the agents are receiving from the Police Bureau in order to serve the island’s citizens.
“It disappoints me because it harms the police force’s image. They are the ones who save citizens. We don’t want anything similar to what happened in the United States, where someone died due to them [police] lacking adequate training and psychological [preparation],” Murcia said. “I understand the pressure they’re under; they must have a stronger mental state than the average citizen, because they have an additional responsibility.
This is a direct violation as I even felt discriminated against when I asked if they were NPP [supporters], and they got more infuriated. I was scared for my life if they got me out of my car, because they were going to break my teeth.”
Murcia said that although he wants justice, he is not considering filing a civil lawsuit because he does not want to irritate or provoke anyone. He also said the coverage the incident has gotten on media outlets is more than enough for him.
“We don’t want to agitate. We don’t want to provoke. We want justice,” Murcia said. “I’m not sure about putting any legal procedure into play. I hate them [lawsuits]; they waste so much time, money, it crumbles one’s patience. I prefer leaving it like this, so it was not in vain. If this never happened -- if media outlets had not have given it any coverage -- then I would have taken it to the ultimate consequences. It was a lesson for everyone.”