Plaintiff speaks out on lawsuit against APD officers, City for “unconstitutional” traffic stop
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - One of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed after an “unconstitutional” traffic stop and roadside interrogation in Alexandria has spoken out about the 20-minute-long interaction, saying he wants to bring awareness to situations like the one he found himself in with officers of the Alexandria Police Department.
Mario Rosales, of New Mexico, and Gracie Lasyone, of Dry Prong, are suing APD officers, Jim Lewis and Samuel Terrell, Chief Ronney Howard and the City of Alexandria in that federal lawsuit filed in the Western District of Louisiana on Tuesday, Nov. 1, with the help of the Institute for Justice, a national non-profit that defends property rights and the Fourth Amendment.
News Channel 5 sat down with Rosales, who spoke on how the traffic stop transpired and the realizations he made in the events recorded on dash and body camera video from the stop.
According to the lawsuit, at around 5 p.m. on June 15, 2022, Rosales, who was driving a red mustang with News Mexico plates and a valid registration sticker, turned left at the intersection of Dorchester Drive and Jackson Street. His turn signal can be seen flashing in the video.
That is when Officers Lewis and Terrell pulled Rosales and Lasyone over.
“The first thing that went through my head, I’m like, ‘I wonder why he’s pulling me over,’” Rosales told News Channel 5. “What really started to scare me is when he asked me to exit the vehicle. Because when they ask you to exit the vehicle, it’s because it’s gonna lead to something else.”
Without approaching the vehicle, Officer Terrell motioned for Rosales to get out of the car.
“I was trying to rationalize it in my mind, thinking, ‘For sure they’re just looking for someone, and they thought maybe I matched the description, the vehicle maybe matched the description.”
Rosales said he could not think of a reason that made sense as to why the officers would stop him. He provided Officer Terrell with his driver’s license and registration. It was when Officer Lewis approached Lasyone who was still in the front seat of the Mustang that Rosales asked Officer Terrell why he had been pulled over. Officer Terrell told him, “I’ll tell you in a second.”
“Him not providing the answer only reassured me this is not what I’m thinking it is,” said Rosales. “I was just more afraid, like am I gonna be put in handcuffs and taken to jail over something that’s being falsely made? Yeah, pretty much after that point that’s what I was afraid of. I thought I was gonna be arrested.”
It was not until about 10 minutes into the stop that the couple were told why they were pulled over, for failure to signal.
“Not a doubt in my mind my turn signal was on,” said Rosales, who laughed, noting that he always uses his turn signals because a lot of people in this area fail to properly use theirs. “I heard it. I didn’t have music playing or anything.”
While providing his information to Officer Terrell, Rosales is asked by Officer Lewis if he has a gun in the car.
Rosales: “I have one in my bag, yeah.”
Lewis: “Okay, where is it at?”
Rosales: “In the back seat.”
Lewis: “In the back seat? Okay, what is it?”
Rosales: “It’s a Taurus.”
Terrell: “Do you have any on you?”
Rosales: “No, not on me.”
Rosales was asked to put his hands on the bumper and Officer Terrell frisked him. He found no weapon.
Lewis: “Hey, can I have your permission to retrieve that firearm out of your gun, or out of your uh vehicle?”
Rosales: “No, I don’t want anybody searching my vehicle.”
Lewis: “Okay, cool. Yeah, I get it.”
“If I hadn’t already been pulled out of the vehicle, I wouldn’t have thought nothing more of it,” said Rosales. “But since he already pulled me out of the vehicle... I was expecting things to be odd.”
At this point, Officer Terrell begins to frisk Rosales, an action which he said made him uncomfortable since he had yet to be told what the stop was even about.
“That’s just not part of a routine stop,” said Rosales.
The video shows Lewis read Rosales his Miranda rights and said that he had a few questions. One of those questions was how long Rosales had been in the State of Louisiana. Rosales said he worked at Atlas Home Service and was trying to buy a home in Louisiana. Rosales was also asked if he had an arrest record, to which he replied “no.”
At one point, Rosales told Officer Lewis he would be more comfortable if Laysone were allowed to get her phone and record. Both Officers Lewis and Terrell noted that the video was being recorded on their body cameras.
Lewis promised he would not lose the body camera video when Rosales mentioned that he had a prior incident with an officer in which he was assaulted by an off-duty officer in Roswell, New Mexico in 2018. According to the law firm that filed this current lawsuit, Mario could not obtain dash or body camera video from the officer or his employer.
“I didn’t feel safe trusting them and only them with their footage and ensuring that it’s going to be safe,” said Rosales.
The couple was then separated and Officer Lewis began to ask Rosales about drugs.
Lewis: “Any marijuana in the vehicle?”
Lewis: “Uh, meth?”
Lewis: “Uh, heroin?”
Lewis: “Prescription pills not prescribed to you?”
Lewis: “Okay. Cocaine?
Lewis: “Crack cocaine?”
Rosales: “No. I don’t do drugs. I don’t mess with any kind of illegal substances or drugs.”
“At that moment, I immediately knew what they were trying to, an image they were trying to portray,” said Rosales. “I mean, you see New Mexico plates. Here I am in Louisiana, and that’s whenever I snapped. I’m like, ‘They think I’m a drug smuggler. That’s what this is about, I bet.’”
Lasyone was asked about “anything illegal” in the vehicle by Officer Lewis, and later, Officer Terrell asked her a similar line of questioning that he used with Rosales.
Ultimately, about 20 minutes after the couple was stopped, Rosales was cited by the officers for failure to signal, failure to register a vehicle and another allegation related to registering a vehicle. All three charges were dismissed on Aug. 9, 2022.
The couple said since the incident, they have lost their sense of “security” and “trust” in the police department and believe their First and Fourth Amendment rights were deprived. They’re seeking a jury trial.
“It made me really upset that these people felt they can just, that they had that power, I guess. That they can just do that and there’s no repercussions for it,” said Rosales. “I think people need to be, they need to be aware that this is not tolerated and the only way to stop this is to stand up against these people. If you don’t stand up for yourself and you just continue to take it, nothing will ever change. And we’re stuck in this cycle.”
News Channel 5 reached out to the City of Alexandria for comment on the lawsuit and were told they cannot provide a comment as the litigation is ongoing.
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