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Scottsdale police chief admits 'mistakes' in woman's 2020 hit-and-run arrest

Posted at 11:41 AM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 13:29:25-05

UPDATE: The Scottsdale Police Department has released a copy of the internal investigation into the wrongful arrest of Yessenia Garcia. Six police officers and one police aide were disciplined, according to the records obtained by ABC15 through a public records request.

A full copy of the investigation is embedded at the bottom of this report.

The Scottsdale Police Department says some of its employees involved in the May 2020 arrest of Yessenia Garcia violated department policy, and Chief Jeff Walther admitted "we made some mistakes."

Garcia was falsely accused of a hit-and-run crash by Scottsdale officers who overlooked clear evidence of her innocence.

While she was at two bars with friends, a random man jumped on the hood of her parked car and stomped on the windshield and smashed it, according to surveillance video from a nearby building.

Watch ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing's original investigation in the player above.

Garcia’s then-boyfriend flagged down a bicycle officer when the couple retired to the vehicle. The pair didn’t know that police had responded to a hit-and-run 30 minutes earlier about 0.3 miles away.

Police were certain of Garcia’s guilt almost immediately after seeing the smashed windshield.

The additional information about the video from ABC15 prompted Chief Walther to launch “a formal internal affairs investigation to fully review the incident.”

The department said Tuesday:

The investigation revealed that although probable cause existed for Ms. Garcia’s arrest under the totality of circumstances known to the officers at the time, some of the employees involved in the incident violated department policy and/or should have conducted a more thorough follow-up investigation consistent with the standards of our organization.

Employees found to have violated policy or out of department expectations reportedly “received some degree of discipline or counseling depending on the severity of their policy violation. The most serious of this discipline included one employee receiving a 40-hour suspension and another employee receiving a 20-hour suspension, both of which are unpaid.”

Chief Jeff Walther said, "In this case, I am confident in the investigation’s findings and that our employees did not demonstrate malice or ill intent. I know that does not change how the events unfolded that evening or how Ms. Garcia was affected, and for that she has my most sincere apologies."

In August 2021, two lawyers announced in a press conference that they were picking up a lawsuit against the Scottsdale Police Department in regards to the incident.

Lawyers for Garcia released the following statement: