But that dream ended when a New Mexico detective took her for a ride, to give her a taste of police culture.
What happens in a ride-along stays in a ride-along.
In a terrifying case of sexual misconduct, a New Mexico detective took a wrong turn too many in his ride-along with a then 17-year-old girl
The detective was HIV positive too.
Now, the city of La Cruces, N.M. has settled to pay $3 million to a woman who was sexually abused by a city police officer during the ride-along. The officer in question, Detective Michael Garcia has since plead guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The settlement decision was made on Monday.
Victim Diana Guerrero filed a Federal lawsuit against the Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) and the city in 2014 after Detective Garcia was convicted of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor.
Detective Garcia was assigned to a unit that focused on child abuse and sex crimes.
It all unfolded in May 2011 when Guerrero was 17-years-old; she was in a police intern program that gave high school students a inside look into police work. In doing so, Guerrero was assigned to do a in car ride-along with Detective Garcia. After coming from a crime scene, Detective Garcia was suppose to report to the police station, but he instead decided to make a swift detour in his un-marked patrol car.
However, it was not until 2013 that Guerrero finally reported the sexual assault to police. In 2013, a female detective with LCPD randomly and unexpectedly saw Guerrero. The female detective asked Guerrero why she wasn’t interning in the explorers program anymore.
It was then that Guerrero spoke of the sexual abuse at the hands of Detective Garcia. Upon hearing first hand about the sexual misconduct, the female detective immediately began a criminal investigation.
“I thought it was me, I thought it was my fault. I thought I did something wrong. I thought, it’s your fault. You agreed to go on ride-alongs that day, it’s your fault. You put yourself in that position. You allowed yourself to love something that much, you put your guard down, and you wouldn’t put your guard down with a police officer, right? But I did. I put my trust in his hands,”
On Aug. 23, 2013 Detective Garcia was arrested for his sex crimes after he admitted to it– a week later he was fired. Garcia was on the force for 15 years.
Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, the City of Las Cruces is required to pay all damages caused by its employees, because the city is distinguished as a government entity. During court proceedings, it was brought to light that Detective Garcia was HIV positive. Tests confirmed that Guerrero was HIV free.
Upon the Monday settlement Police Chief Jaime Montoya said:
“I am proud and appreciate that our employees will not put up with this behavior and took steps immediately to investigate this crime and arrest former detective Michael Garcia. Nothing upsets us more than a bad cop as it makes all of us look bad. Sexual harassment in any form and mistreatment of the public is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. I am confident that what we are doing in our training and mentoring of our employees is a step in the right direction, and is in line with the core values of our department. It is my hope that this settlement will give closure to the victim and our department, and allow all parties to move on.”
Hopefully, this story will inspire more women to report police sex crimes when they occur, and not just in New Mexico.
Victim Diana Guerrero showed true grit to expose the truth about the blue line’s dirty secret, serial sexual predators wearing the badge.