What was supposed to be an unremarkable trip to the bank for Gaylord resident Jesus Mendoza quickly turned into an Orwellian nightmare. While attempting to make a deposit at a bank “drive thru,” law enforcement approached the vehicle she was in, questioned the two occupants, and later arrested the driver.
Although police dispatch clearly indicated that law enforcement did not have a valid reason to detain Mendoza and officers on the scene were able to confirm her identity with a Minnesota state ID, Sibley Sheriff Deputy Marvin Doeden refused to let the Spanish-speaking Mendoza leave for work. Despite a complete lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct, deputy Doeden detained Mendoza, searched her person, and then took her to the Gaylord Police Station for questioning. At no point was Mendoza given an explanation of her rights.
At the station, Mendoza was interrogated on record by law enforcement officers in a large conference room. In a poorly translated interview, an outraged Officer Jeff Milette repeatedly accused Mendoza of lying about her identity. In humiliating fashion, the officers took to shouting at her, asking her how she came to the United States, demanding she produce immigration documents, calling her a liar, and telling her to “shut up.” At no point was she free to leave.
After the interrogation, three officers escorted Mendoza to her home to see if “she had paperwork to prove that she is the same person on her license.” When they arrived at her home, two officers entered the home without her permission and without consent. Officer Milette escorted Mendoza into her bedroom and proceeded to grab and inspect her personal papers. Only after he was able to confirm that she was legally in the United States did he let her go free.
In audio from the day of the incident, Officer Milette can be heard gleefully explaining how much he would enjoy making some popcorn and pulling up a chair to tease minority inmates into fighting.“Look at the monkeys! Look at the monkeys!,”he exclaimed. He also suggested they could always“mop up the blood later.”One jail employee proposed that two Hispanic inmates fight. In apparent disagreement, Officer Milette reminded the employee that Rosales wanted “no part of [fighting] Zambrano” the other night.
—The ACLU of Minnesota has filed a lawsuit on Mendoza’s behalf against the Gaylord Police Department for racial profiling and her illegal detention and arrest. Attorneys working on the case are: Albert Goins, Goins Law Offices, Ltd.; Ian Bratlie, Staff Attorney, Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project at ACLU-MN in Mankato; and, Teresa Nelson, ACLU-MN Legal Director.
Several other incidences involving the Gaylord Police Department are currently being reviewed by the ACLU of Minnesota. Approximately 59 percent of one Gaylord officer’s tickets were issued to Latinos, who make up about 23 percent of the local population. This same officer has very high rates of ticket dismissals. Other officers in the area ticket Latinos about 30 percent of the time. Visit our File a Complaint page if you or someone you know has been targeted by the police on the basis of race or national origin.