POSTSCRIPT / September 26, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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FilAm couple victim of US police brutality

LISTEN to this (slightly edited) story forwarded by former beauty queen Aurora Pijuan about what a Pinay friend’s husband went through last month at the airport in Seattle:

* * *

ON Monday night, Aug. 28, I was coming home to Seattle after a week’s vacation in California. My flight was delayed. From Burbank, I relayed that information to my husband. He had been working all day, meeting with clients; but yes he would be there.

We hadn’t seen each other for two weeks. We were both hungry and tired. There would be no chance for him to go home and change. From the airport, we were going to do Chinese take-out, pick up the three dogs from my parents’ house and just relax at home.

I arrived in Seattle at 8:30 p.m. I called my husband on his cell phone to tell him I was out. The signal was bad and we could barely understand each other. While he was hanging around the loading/unloading zone, a couple of airport officers approached him and ordered him to move on.

Yes, there were signs that “Waiting is not allowed. Unattended vehicles will be towed.” But traffic was not that busy. There were several other drivers waiting; there were even a few cars parked without their drivers. My husband pointed this out to the officer. They had an exchange of words.

* * *

MY husband moved on and picked me up at the end of the terminal where I had been waiting. As I greeted my husband and loaded luggage, I noticed a police vehicle on the lane next to us. I thought the officer was going to reprimand the lady in the car in front of us. She had been parked there for quite awhile.

But he ignored her. Instead he followed us as we moved out. Just before we could reach the entrance to the freeway, he flashed his lights and pulled us over. I was confused. We were cruising slowly, taking our time, while we chit-chatted about my trip.

My husband rolled down his window. In a loud and rough manner, the officer ordered for driver’s license, registration and insurance. I proceeded to get the papers out of the glove compartment. We asked him what the charge was. He said that we did not signal when we did a lane change.

* * *

“NOT true!” we both affirmed. I could hear the clicking of the signal turn while I was telling my husband a story. It was still clicking when he pulled us over.

My husband looked at him and recognized his face. That was when he realized that it was one of the officers he had a discussion with back at the terminal. The officer said he was issuing a ticket. We protested.

“This is harassment! It’s a lie and you know that!” my husband insisted.

“Oh yeah?” said the officer. “Let’s see how big a lie it is on the ticket.”

He walked over to his car, took his time writing the ticket, all this time, shining a spotlight towards my husband’s face while we waited inside our vehicle. Another officer also came and positioned himself on my side of our vehicle with a flashlight even though I had already turned on the overhead lights.

* * *

WHEN the other one came back, he presented my husband with the ticket to sign. My husband refused and asked for a supervisor. The officer kept pushing for him to sign the ticket, threatening criminal charges if he did not sign.

“All right,” my husband said, “but first, I need to read whatever it is I’m signing. If you can remove that light from my face so I can read it.”

The officer refused, insisting that he sign it immediately. My husband pointed out that he took 20 minutes to write the ticket, so he can wait a few while he reads it.

* * *

A POLICEWOMAN arrived and informed us that she was the supervisor we requested for. My husband took out his wallet and tried to hand her a business card to introduce himself. She grabbed his wallet and tossed it on the street towards the other officers. The first officer informed her that my husband refused to sign the ticket.

We proceeded to explain why. She yelled at me to shut up. Then she grabbed my husband by the collar and dragged him out.

“That’s it. You’re coming with us!” she yelled. Then she slammed him against our truck before throwing him to the other officers. They were back there, traipsing around picking up the money from his wallet. They immediately handcuffed my husband. They were milling around him, about four or five officers, shoving him, kneeing and elbowing him.

Somebody threw the wallet back into our vehicle. I put it in my purse. I didn’t bother to check it, more concerned for my husband’s safety than its contents.

* * *

I SAT there terrified. The original officer told me I could go. At first he said they were going to bring my husband to the Kent Police Station. I said, I didn’t know where that was. He excused himself to get an address.

I kept looking back to see what was going on with my husband. I could see his head going up and down as they pummeled him.

When the officer came back, he told me to go to the downtown Police Station instead. I told him I knew where that was. But I asked him what was the charge and why they were doing this. He sensed my hesitation to go and threatened that they would take me too and get a vehicle tow if I didn’t go.

* * *

“ALL right,” I said. “I’ll be there.” He said it would take at least an hour and a half before he gets there. I took a last look back at my husband. Then I looked at the officer in the eye. My last words to him were “Please, don’t abuse my husband.”

He replied with a laugh and a sneer, “We don’t do that.”

I proceeded to downtown and waited in the dark street for about half an hour. Then panic overtook me. What if he was calling home. So I drove home as fast as I could. I tried to track down the Seattle Police Booking Dept. on the phone.

Then I got a call from my brother saying that somebody called him and told him my husband was in the hospital. I called the hospital, talked to the doctor and asked for directions.

At this point, my nerves were so frayed to the point of hysteria. So I woke my sister and her husband and requested them to drive me there. It was a long way back to Sea-Tac.

* * *

MY husband was in a hospital in Burien. He never made it out of the airport area. The officers just wanted to give me the run around.

This was what happened to my husband: When they grabbed him out of the vehicle, they never informed him that they were putting him under arrest, or why they were taking him. They never read him his rights. They took turns hitting him aggressively with their knees and elbows.

One officer was stomping him with his flashlight. The female sergeant was especially enthusiastic with kneeing his kidneys but kept hitting his groin since she was shorter than him. They told him to bend over and violently pushed him forward to handcuff him. (So much for my husband’s bad back. He already had surgery on his lower back and opted for years of therapy instead of having a second surgery.) They put the handcuffs on him really tight so that it cut into his wrists.

* * *

ONE officer, a really big guy, about 6’4′ tall, spread-eagled his legs and from behind grabbed and squeezed his testicles as hard as he could.

“I’m just frisking you,” he mockingly said, waiting to hear my husband beg or whimper. My husband refused to give him the benefit and at this point, cursed him. The officer let go momentarily only to squeeze harder. My husband thought he was going to pass out. But they wouldn’t let him.

They brought him back to the Port of Seattle and put him in detention for over two hours. They never charged him nor booked him. He kept calling out to them to either book him now or release him. He told them he was a lawyer and he knew that what they were doing was unlawful and illegal. They all just laughed at him.

* * *

“YOU can’t do this!” he screamed.

“I guess we are,” they laughed back. He asked to call his wife or his attorney. They refused to allow him a phone call.

At this point my husband was really not feeling good. He has diabetes and his condition could become suddenly unstable just from stress and hunger. Less than four weeks ago, I had to rush him to the emergency hospital. He suffered hypoglycemia just from skipping lunch and triggered a mild heart attack at the same time.

He was starting to panic. He told them about his condition and his need for his medication. They ignored him and kept laughing and mocking him.

* * *

FINALLY, when he went into a diabetic seizure, they realized he was serious. They let him go and dumped him at the closest hospital without even talking to the doctor. Before they let him go, they insisted he sign a form that said they returned all his belongings.

My husband refused to sign. After the wallet incident, he insisted that they show him his Rolex watch. This they returned. Afterwards though, we learned that his wedding ring worth $2,500 was missing and $950 had been taken from his wallet. (Earlier on, during the day, a client paid him cash for a retainer fee.)

When I saw my husband at the hospital, he was wearing a neck brace for a sprained neck. His face was all puffy. You can tell he had been worked over. When we got home, it was 2:30 a.m. It had been six hours since the ordeal began.

I took pictures of his bruises before putting him to bed. The next day, he was in bed all day. The pain killers kept zonking him out. I hardly managed to speak to him except to wake him up and force him to eat.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 26, 2000)

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