Hispanic Woman Accuses Police of Bias and Beating
Thursday, February 5, 2009
A Manassas Park woman who was bloodied and hospitalized Monday after, police allege, she resisted arrest during a traffic stop said yesterday that she was treated "like an animal" by police because she is Hispanic and does not speak English.
Agueda M. Dominguez, 38, said she was sprayed in the face with a chemical agent and beaten by a Manassas Park police officer after refusing to sign a citation that she couldn't read. Police said an internal investigation is underway.
"I want them to stop treating us like animals. We're people," said Dominguez, speaking in Spanish to television crews yesterday at the Apex gas station on Manassas Avenue, near the site of the incident.
Manassas Park Police Maj. Mark Mathews said that Dominguez and the officer were injured in the encounter but that he was unable to describe the officer's injuries. "That's still part of our investigation," he said.
Dominguez, who has a swollen right eye and abrasions on her forehead and under her eye, said she intends to lodge a complaint against the officer but does not have a lawyer.
The incident comes amid tensions between police and Hispanic immigrants in the Prince William County area as law enforcement agencies there take on an expanded role in federal immigration enforcement, leading to accusations of discrimination.
Dominguez said she was on her way to a Woodbridge real estate office to negotiate refinancing for her home when an officer pulled her over. She said she did not know that the headlight on the passenger side of her 1999 Isuzu was burned out.
When the officer asked for her driver's license, Dominguez said, she realized that she'd left it at home after changing out of her work clothing. The officer wrote a citation for Dominguez and was able to confirm through a police database that Dominguez has a valid Virginia driver's license, Mathews said.
Dominguez said that when she refused to sign the citation, the officer ordered her out of the car. He repeated the command, then sprayed a chemical agent in her face, she said.
"He pulled me out of the car, threw me against the hood and threw me on the ground," said Dominguez, adding that she was not resisting arrest but trying to wipe the stinging chemical off her face.
Dominguez said the officer struck her, grabbed her by the hair and slammed her face into the concrete, lodging bits of gravel and sand under her skin while handcuffing her. She said she was in handcuffs when she woke up several hours later at Prince William Hospital.
Dominguez was taken to jail from there and later released on $5,000 bond. A court hearing is scheduled for March 12.